Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C are viral infections of the liver. While they can both cause significant liver damage and long term scarring, they are actually very different diseases from each other.
How do you contract Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is spread by coming into contact with blood or other bodily fluids from a person carrying the virus. Worldwide, most people with Hepatitis B become infected at the time of birth or in early childhood.
In adults who are not vaccinated, other modes of spread include:
– unprotected sex with an infected person
– sharing needles or piercing equipment with an infected person
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis B?
– loss of appetite
– jaundice (yellow colour to skin/eyes)
– abdominal pain
Hep B can also cause inflammation of blood vessels (Polyarteritis nodosa), kidney disease, autoimmune arthritis and anaemia.
The risk of a long term (chronic) infection with Hepatitis B decreases with age. This means that children infected with Hepatitis B are very likely (>95%) to remain infected for many years., while for adults this is very unlikely (<5%). The two main complications of chronic infection are (i) liver failure (cirrhosis) and (ii) liver cancer.
How do you diagnose Hepatitis B?
How do you treat Hepatitis B
Irrespective of the need for treatment, people with chronic Hepatitis B infection need to be carefully monitored by a doctor. This includes regular screening for liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Hepatitis B infection can be prevented by a vaccine. In Australia this is given to all children as part of the National vaccination schedule.
How do you contract Hepatitis C?
– sharing injecting equipment such as needles, syringes or spoons
– sharing toothbrushes or razors
– having a tattoo / body piercing with unsterile equipment
– infected blood products (pre-1990)
What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C?
– nausea / vomiting
– abdominal pain
– dark urine
– jaundice (yellowing of skin / eyes)
The Hepatitis C virus can also cause inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis), kidney damage, and skin diseases (e.g. Lichen planus). It also increases the risk of lymphoma.
Approximately 80% of patient who are infected with Hepatitis C will go on to have a life-long infection unless they receive treatment. While long term (chronic) Hepatitis C infection can go undetected for many years, it frequently causes ongoing damage to the liver. This can result in liver failure (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.