Identify the 5 risk factors for hepatitis that should prompt you to undergo testing

Hepatitis, a chronic condition, if left unmanaged, can result in severe liver damage. Our expert outlines key risk factors to be aware of and recommends essential tests for early detection.

Identify the 5 risk factors for hepatitis that should prompt you to undergo testing

Hepatitis presents a significant health concern primarily targeting the liver. It can instigate liver inflammation, potentially progressing to scarring or cirrhosis and hampered liver functionality if not addressed promptly. Recognizing potential risk factors and undergoing essential testing is imperative to mitigate the threat of this illness.

In an interview with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr. Bhavini Shah, Head of Microbiology at Neuberg Supratech Reference Laboratories in Ahmedabad, delves into the prevalent risk factors associated with hepatitis and offers comprehensive insights into hepatitis testing procedures.

Different Forms of Hepatitis

Types Of Hepatitis

Hepatitis is categorized into multiple types, each attributed to distinct viruses. The primary classifications of viral hepatitis comprise:

Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A virus (HAV) is responsible for causing hepatitis A. It primarily spreads through the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can also be transmitted through direct contact with an infected individual.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is predominantly transmitted through exposure to infected blood or bodily fluids, including during childbirth from an infected mother to her newborn. Additionally, it can spread through sexual intercourse with an infected individual.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is typically transmitted through exposure to infected blood, such as sharing needles or other drug-injecting paraphernalia. Additionally, transmission from an infected mother to her child during childbirth is possible. However, it is less frequently transmitted through sexual contact.

Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D, also referred to as delta hepatitis, manifests in individuals already infected with hepatitis B. HDV transmission commonly occurs through the same pathways as hepatitis B, predominantly via exposure to infected blood or through sexual contact.

Hepatitis E 

Hepatitis E is primarily transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food or water, particularly prevalent in regions with inadequate sanitation, often leading to waterborne outbreaks.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 350 million individuals worldwide are affected by viral hepatitis, with more than one million deaths annually attributed to acute hepatitis and chronic infections, which can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis.

Additionally, hepatitis can arise from non-viral sources, including factors such as alcohol abuse, exposure to toxins, autoimmune disorders, and metabolic conditions. Unlike viral hepatitis, these non-viral forms are not contagious and do not stem from viral infections.

Who Faces Risks

Who Faces Risks

Common Risk Factors:

  • Alcoholism
  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Infected blood transfusion
  • Unhygienic tattoo and piercings
  • Contaminated needle prick
  • Illegal drug use

Reasons for Undergoing a Hepatitis Test

Reasons for Undergoing a Hepatitis Test

Dr. Shah emphasizes, “Hepatitis can lead to liver complications, affecting its vital functions in digestion and toxin filtration. Early testing is crucial to detect hepatitis before it exacerbates.” Symptoms vary but can include fatigue, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), abdominal pain, nausea, and fever. However, some individuals may be asymptomatic. Therefore, testing serves as the primary means to diagnose the condition promptly, enabling timely intervention and treatment.

Key Information About Hepatitis Testing

Dr. Shah advises regular testing for those at higher risk of hepatitis, such as healthcare workers, individuals with multiple sexual partners, injection drug users, or those living with someone with hepatitis.

The testing process typically involves a blood sample analysis in a laboratory, where specific markers or antibodies are examined to determine the presence and type of hepatitis.

Dr. Shah highlights the “window period,” during which some tests may not immediately detect hepatitis post-infection. Therefore, retesting after a few weeks is recommended for recent exposures.

In summary, hepatitis testing facilitates early detection of infections, enabling proper liver and overall health care. Those who suspect they may be at risk or experience symptoms should consult their healthcare provider about testing. Understanding one’s status and taking preventive measures are crucial steps toward maintaining health, Dr. Shah concludes.