What is viral hepatitis and how is it diagnosed?

Written by: Professor Patrick Kennedy
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Viral hepatitis is any inflammation of the liver caused by a specific virus. There are a number of viruses which can cause viral hepatitis from hepatitis A to hepatitis E, and the viruses can be contracted in different ways. Some variants of hepatitis have vaccines such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The more concerning types of viral hepatitis are those that cause chronic liver disease, namely hepatitis B and C and in some cases hepatitis D which can complicate hepatitis B.


How is hepatitis diagnosed?


Viral hepatitis is essentially diagnosed by abnormalities in the liver enzymes. Where abnormalities in the transaminases are seen and are confirmed by viral serology which will be able to identify the virus that is causing the viral hepatitis.

There are a number of investigations that could also be undertaken to investigate the hepatitis virus further outside of laboratory tests, such as ultrasounds scans, FibroScans, and in some cases, liver biopsy.


Symptoms of hepatitis


With acute hepatitis, there are often no noticeable symptoms, however with chronic or long-term hepatitis, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • high temperature
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • nausea
  • jaundice
  • exhaustion and feeling tired all of the time
  • loss of appetite
  • itching
  • dark urine, pale-coloured poo
  • stomach pain

If you are suffering with any of these symptoms, book an appointment with a consultant hepatologist to find the best course of action.

By Professor Patrick Kennedy
Hepatology (liver specialist)

Professor Patrick Kennedy is a prominent London-based gastroenterologist and hepatologist. Specialising in liver disease and the hepatitis virus, he is known internationally for his work in viral liver disease and has contributed greatly to redefining disease categorisation.

Professor Kennedy has published widely in the field of hepatology and has completed focused research on the translational aspects of viral liver disease and the markers of disease progression. Furthermore, Professor Kennedy is a member of a number of committees, providing expert medical opinion to a number of hepatology, gastroenterology and liver disease advisory panels.

Professor Kennedy also dedicates time to teaching, and supervises a number of MD and PhD students, alongside regularly chairing and speaking at national and international meetings and contributing to peer-reviewed journals.

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