Can I get hepatitis without knowing it?What you need to know for a timely diagnosis

The Pan American Health Organization estimates that one person dies from hepatitis B or C every 30 seconds. A disease that causes inflammation of the liver, which can have several causes, and occurs when the organ is injured or infected, causing damage to the organ.

Viral hepatitis, caused by hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus infection, is responsible for a significant proportion of disease and mortality worldwide. An estimated 57% of cirrhosis cases and 78% of primary liver cancer cases are caused by hepatitis B or C.

What tests are needed to diagnose?

To find out whether a patient has hepatitis A, B, or C, different types of laboratory tests must be done depending on the virus the patient may have been exposed to.

For example, says Leyla Nazal, in order to confirm hepatitis A infection, it is necessary to measure the levels of immunoglobulins M and G, which make it possible to confirm whether a person is infected with the virus, whether recent or old. Gastroenterologist at Clínica Las Condes.

Although testing for hepatitis B involves a more complex process, the focus is on taking the patient’s clinical history and knowing whether he has been exposed to risk factors for the infection.

Once this is done, the patient must undergo a surface antigen test and an anti-core test. These two tests can detect the virus and show whether it is a previous infection or if the hepatitis is replicating.

If positive, an RNA test should be done later to measure the viral load, along with an abdominal ultrasound to look at the liver and whether the hepatitis is affecting other organs. Finally, hepatic fibrosis indices must be measured to understand the progression of the virus at the liver level.

Infection Route and Prevention of Hepatitis

Regarding the origin of the disease, experts from the Las Condes Clinic detailed that each type of hepatitis occurs in a different way, “Hepatitis A is a self-limiting infection that is more related to the ingestion of contaminated and hepatitis B, which is associated with ingestion of contaminated food.” and C viruses, whose transmission can occur in a variety of situations very similar to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), including blood transfusions, blood Dialysis, IV drug use, unsafe sex, piercings, tattoos, etc. “

Therefore, it is necessary to know what the most effective preventive measures against hepatitis viruses are. To avoid getting hepatitis A, experts recommend washing your hands frequently (especially after using the toilet, before preparing food or after sex), in addition to cleaning bathroom facilities every day.
Only drink water.

For B and C viruses, the mandatory precautions are the use of condoms, not sharing syringes, and tattooing in fixed places. This is because exposure to contaminated blood from a carrier can lead to infection.

Hepatitis B and C viruses are the types of hepatitis that cause the most dangerous and serious illness. Hepatitis B with few symptoms is common, detailing that “recent infection may go unnoticed, which is very serious. Most people do not have acute hepatitis and only 20% of patients have symptoms. It is also possible that they have non-specific symptoms , with a bit of fatigue, which is why they are usually diagnosed in advanced stages of fibrosis, i.e. when there is already cirrhosis,” Nazal details.

The main symptoms

Mild symptoms of hepatitis include:
– Fatigue.
– general malaise.
– nausea.
– Vomiting and abdominal pain.

Once these symptoms start to appear, complications can be serious. “If hepatitis B stays in the body, inflammation may follow, progress to chronic infection, and lead to fibrosis. Then it will develop into cirrhosis, and lead to ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, esophageal variceal bleeding, and even liver cancer, etc. Complications,” Dr. Nazar detailed.

This pathology is taken into account in our country’s vaccination program, so since 2005 all newborns have received a preventive dose against hepatitis B, since this particular virus is more likely to become chronic when infected at an early age.

Patients infected with hepatitis C experience a very similar situation. Experts explained that this virus “is characterized by being asymptomatic for many years, so late diagnosis may cause progressive damage to the liver, reaching cirrhosis or liver cancer. In addition, it is one of the most common reasons for liver transplantation in our country”.

In this regard, experts explained that there is currently follow-up antiviral treatment for the disease, and the success rate is as high as 99%, which allows patients to be discharged from the hospital after 24 months without traces of the virus in their bodies.

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