Hepatitis refers to damage to the liver caused by swelling. In this case, it refers to two of the more common causes of Hepatitis, infections by the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses (HBV and HCV respectively.) Hepatitis infections can either be acute, in which case they are killed by the body’s immune system, or chronic, where they are permanent and slowly scar the liver over time.
Hepatitis B tends to be more mild than Hepatitis C, and can be prevented by vaccine. Infections of HBV are rarely chronic, and almost never damaging when not permanent.
Hepatitis C is acute in only 15-40% of cases, and tends to be more damaging on the liver than HBV when chronic. Like HBV, HCV will generally clear with little damage when it is acute. However, due to its higher rate of chronic infection, and the lack of a vaccine, HCV is far more dangerous.
With both viruses, Hepatitis is more easily transmitted through blood than through sexual intercourse. Unsterilized medical equipment, hypodermic needles especially, are the main method of transmission. Tattooing or body piercing tools can also carry infection. Always insure your doctors and body-artists use safe materials, and proper disposal methods.
HBV is more easily transmitted sexually than HCV, but both can be carried through sexual fluids and saliva. Hepatitis B and C can also be transmitted to children during childbirth.
HBV can be inoculated against, and vaccines are highly effective at stopping infection. A renewal of HBV vaccination is required every 23 years to retain efficacy, and failure to renew inoculation can put one at risk of infection.
Consider consulting our counselors for Hepatitis testing if you or your partner display the following symptoms associated with liver damage:
- Chronic fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Arthritis-like joint or muscle pain
- Frequent inflammation of the skin or rashes
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
Blood tests that screen the body for HBV and HCV antibodies are the most reliable method of determining infection. Catching a chronic Hepatitis infection in its early stage is important for preventing damage that may lead to liver failure, or liver cancer. Contact our counselors if you or your partner are worried about having Hepatitis, to set up an appointment for testing.