96% of hepatitis related deaths are caused by hepatitis B and hepatitis C according to a study carried out by the World Health Organization, but what is hepatitis?
- What Is Hepatitis?
- Prevalence Of Hepatitis
- What Does Hepatitis Do To The Body?
- What Is The Difference Between Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C?
- How Do You Contract A Hepatitis Virus?
- What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C?
- How Can I Get Tested For Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C?
What Is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. Most cases of hepatitis are caused by viruses but excessive drug and alcohol use also contributes to the condition. There are five main strains of hepatitis including A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis B and C, also known as HBV and HCV are the most common and fatal forms of hepatitis.
Prevalence Of Hepatitis
According to the Global Hepatitis Report:
Hepatitis B affects approximately 240 million people worldwide and contributes to an estimated 786,000 deaths each year.
Hepatitis C affects between 130–150 million people worldwide. Approximately 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C related liver diseases.
What does Hepatitis do to the body?
Viral hepatitis comes in varying viral strains, but all strains attack the liver. Mutated cells multiply and develop on the liver. The liver is responsible for filtering toxic substances in the body, producing vital building blocks in the form of protein, storing fats, sugars and vitamins and forming vital chemical bonds that promote optimal purification of the blood. When the liver is inflamed, it cannot perform these functions and this leads to serious health implications such as scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver failure and liver cancer. If the infection becomes chronic, lasting over six months, it can be fatal.
What is the difference between Hepatitis B & Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis B and C are different strains but they share a common goal in attacking the liver. Over time hepatitis B and C produce similar symptoms. Hepatitis B can be an acute or chronic condition however it is more likely to last less than six months and not develop into a chronic condition. It is more likely to clear itself over time.
Hepatitis C is more likely to become a chronic condition. It is a more dangerous diagnosis than hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C is commonly contracted through blood to blood contact with an infected person. It is very rarely passed on through bodily fluids whereas hepatitis B can be passed through the blood but is more commonly contracted through the exchange of bodily fluids. Regardless, precautions are necessary in preventing contraction of the virus via either method.
How do you contract a Hepatitis virus?
The most common way to contract hepatitis is through infected blood, semen and other bodily fluids. If infected blood passes through your bloodstream, you are at a higher risk.
This might happen if you:
use a needle or syringe to inject drugs into your body that someone with hepatitis has already used. This is the most common method of transmission according to the New York State Department Of Health.
are injured by a needle stick in a lab or other healthcare setting, if that needle has come into contact with blood infected with hepatitis.
share razors, toothbrushes, or other personal hygiene items that may have touched an infected person’s blood.
suffer from haemophilia
your mother was carrying the virus at your time of birth
You can also get hepatitis from sexual contact, but this is less common. Certain sexual behaviours are riskier in terms of increasing your chances of becoming infected. You increase your risk of getting hepatitis if you have:
- more than one sexual partner
- a sexually transmitted disease
- intercourse that is rough and draws blood
Symptoms of Hepatitis B & Hepatitis C
Carrying the virus for over six months means Hepatitis B or C become chronic infections. Chronic infections generally remain dormant for many years, until the virus damages the liver enough to cause the signs and symptoms of liver disease. Among these signs and symptoms are:
- Bleeding easily
- Bruising easily
- Poor appetite
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Dark-colored urine
- Itchy skin
- Fluid buildup in your abdomen (ascites)
- Swelling in your legs
- Weight loss
- Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech (hepatic encephalopathy)
- Spider-like blood vessels on your skin (spider angiomas)
In the acute stages, symptoms may include jaundice, fatigue, nausea, fever or muscle aches. If acute hepatitis symptoms are to arise, they usually appear one to three months after exposure to the virus lasting two weeks to three months time. Acute hepatitis infection doesn’t always become chronic. Some people clear the infection from their bodies after the acute phase, this outcome is known as spontaneous viral clearance.
How do I Test for Hepatitis B and C?
If you are worried about your symptoms or feel you may been exposed to the virus, it is important to get tested immediately. Testing for hepatitis B & C requires a small blood sample. You can get a home-test kit online or at selected pharmacies.
LetsGetChecked offer the Standard 6 test which lets you check for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV.
This is a convenient and confidential alternative to getting tested in a clinic.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley