Ignoring hepatitis symptoms may be life-threatening; here is a doctor's take
"Consult the doctor if you have unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite, diarrhoea and vomiting, weakness and fatigue, and persistent abdominal pain," says Dr Jayaraj SP.
Today is World Hepatitis Day. Although hepatitis is a widespread disease, it largely remains underdiagnosed. Globally, over 354 million people suffer from different forms of hepatitis. Diagnosis and adequate treatment are not accessible for most patients.
Hepatitis involves inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis have several causes. The patients experience symptoms depending upon the severity and extent of liver damage.
"The patient should not ignore the symptoms of liver disease. Consult the doctor if you have unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite, diarrhoea and vomiting, weakness and fatigue, and persistent abdominal pain. Ignoring the symptoms may result in life-threatening complications," Dr Jayaraj SP, consultant for Medical Gastroenterology at Columbia Asia in Sarjapur, Bengaluru, told Asianet Newsable. Columbia Asia is a unit of Manipal Hospitals.
Dr Jayaraj helps us understand hepatitis better.
What are the types of hepatitis?
Based on the duration of active disease, hepatitis may be chronic hepatitis and acute hepatitis. If the patients experience liver inflammation for more than six months, the condition is known as chronic hepatitis. Liver inflammation is less than six months in acute hepatitis.
Although acute hepatitis usually treats on its own. However, sometimes it may lead to a more severe form of hepatitis known as fulminant hepatitis.
Chronic hepatitis, if not treated, may result in progressive liver damage resulting in cirrhosis, liver fibrosis, portal hypertension, and hepatocellular carcinoma.
Based on the type of virus causing the infection, hepatitis may be A, B, C, D and E caused by hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E virus, respectively.
What are the early symptoms of hepatitis?
Patients with chronic hepatitis, such as hepatitis B and C, do not experience any hepatitis symptoms. The patients noticed them when the condition affect liver functions.
Some of the common symptoms that hepatitis patients experience include:
* Loss of appetite
* Unexplained weight loss
* Abdominal pain
* Nause and vomiting
* Pale stool
* Dark urine
* Jaundice (yellow skin and yellow eyes).
How does the doctor diagnoses hepatitis?
The doctor diagnoses hepatitis through different methods. Some of them are:
* Physical examination: The doctor will comprehensively perform a physical evaluation to know the cause of your symptoms. The doctor may examine your abdominal area to determine enlargement of the liver or abdominal tenderness. The doctor may also ask you about your medical history and notice the yellowing of skin and eyes that may b the sign of jaundice.
* Liver function test: The doctor may also recommend the patients undergo a liver function test. Through these tests, the doctor may be able to determine the functional status of the liver. Abnormal results indicate that the liver is under stress or is damaged.
* Ultrasound: In suspected hepatitis and other liver diseases, the doctor may advise the patients to undergo an abdominal ultrasound. It provides information about the level of damage in the liver and other nearby organs.
* Liver biopsy: Liver biopsy is the procedure of taking the sample tissues of the liver for analysis. It helps in diagnosing liver cancer. It also helps in determining the cause of liver damage.
What are the treatment options for hepatitis?
Treatment options depend upon the type of hepatitis.
* Treatment for hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is an acute disease and generally does not require treatment. The doctor advises the patients to take rest and remain hydrated.
* Treatment for hepatitis B: While acute hepatitis B does not require specific treatment, the doctor treats the chronic form with antiviral drugs. The doctor monitors the patients at regular intervals and may also alter the treatment.
* Treatment for hepatitis C: Both acute and chronic hepatitis C requires antiviral medicines. This type of infection generally needs a combination of antivirals.
* Treatment for hepatitis D: There is no effective treatment for hepatitis D. Although Interferon was used in the patients with this hepatitis, but it was effective only in few patients.
* Treatment for hepatitis E: There is no specific treatment for hepatitis E. The condition is acute and treats of its own. The doctor may advise rest, a healthy diet, and hydration for managing hepatitis E.
What are the complications of hepatitis?
Many cases of hepatitis require medical intervention, especially hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Untreated conditions may result in cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. Liver failure may further lead to complications such as hepatic encephalopathy, ascites, kidney failure, and even death.
What are the prevention measures for hepatitis?
There are several ways to prevent hepatitis. Some of them are:
* Maintain good hygiene all the time.
* Do not share or use personal belongings or shaving razors.
* Use condoms during sexual activity.
* Avoid sharing needles while taking drugs.
* Get a vaccination for hepatitis.