Hepatitis is commonly caused by a viral infection and may be temporary (acute) or long term (chronic) depending on the duration it lasts.
The acute form of hepatitis is caused by viral infection and the signs and symptoms appears quickly. They include:
The infectious forms of hepatitis that are chronic, like hepatitis B and C, will not have symptoms in the beginning. Symptoms may not occur until the damage affects liver function. Chronic hepatitis develops slowly, so these signs and symptoms is detected only by liver laboratory studies for screening purposes.
As the inflammation progresses, symptoms developed are similar to acute hepatitis, including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, and joint pain. Jaundice can also occur which is a sign of advanced disease. Chronic hepatitis interferes with hormonal functions of the liver which which can result in acne, abnormal hair growth, and lack of menstrual period in women. Over time, extensive damage and scarring of the liver can develop cirrhosis which can lead to other life-threatening complications such as hepatic encephalopathy and liver cancer.
To identify infection and type of virus for hepatitis as early as possible is the main purpose of screening so that early treatment can be done to can prevent disease progression, and decreases transmission to others.
Screening is done to assess immunity in person who are at high risk of contracting the virus as hepatitis A causes an acute illness that does not progress to chronic liver disease. Screen is also done for the person with known liver disease for whom hepatitis A infection could lead to liver failure.
Persons who are at high risk and in need of screening include:
These people who are not already immune can receive the hepatitis A vaccine.
The presence of anti-hepatitis A IgG in the blood indicates past infection with the virus or prior vaccination.
Hepatitis B screening is recommended for certain high-risk populations which include the person who are:
Screening is done by a blood test that detects hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). To differentiate between acute and chronic infection another test is done on the same blood sample that detects the antibody for the hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBcAg).
These persons can take the hepatitis B vaccine to prevent future infection.
Hepatitis C screening is recommended for certain high-risk populations which include the person who are:
Screening is done by a blood test that detects anti-hepatitis C virus antibody. If anti-hepatitis C virus antibody is present, a confirmatory test can be done to detect HCV RNA which indicates chronic disease. Screening should be done in periodic interval, may be once a year to prevent the disease.