What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver.
When the liver is damaged by viruses, alcohol, drugs or over-consumption of other toxins, you can develop hepatitis. In less common cases, you can get hepatitis because your immune system stops working properly.
There are five viruses known to infect and inflame the liver.
These are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. The symptoms of all five viruses can be similar. But the main difference is the way they are transmitted and the effects they have on your health.
Hepatitis A is most often spread when a person consumes food or drink which has become contaminated with very small particles of infected faeces (poo), usually due to poor sanitation or when hands are not washed thoroughly. It can have serious (but short-lived) symptoms and people generally make a full recovery.
Hepatitis B is a blood borne virus and can be sexually transmitted. There is a safe and effective vaccine to protect you against hepatitis B. You can get treatment to manage chronic hepatitis B but not cure it.
Hepatitis D (or hepatitis delta) only affects people who have hepatitis B and can accelerate the impacts of hepatitis B, leading to worse outcomes for people living with both viruses.
Hepatitis E is similar to hepatitis A. It is most often spread when a person consumes food or drink which has become contaminated with very small particles of infected faeces (poo). It can have serious (but short-lived) symptoms and people generally make a full recovery. It is extremely rare in Australia.
How hepatitis affects your liver?
Hepatitis can be acute or chronic.
Acute hepatitis means the virus might make you sick for a short time but then you will recover. Some people may experience symptoms, but most people do not get seriously ill during acute hepatitis infection except for hepatitis A, which is less common in Australia. Most people recover from this illness within a few weeks with no lasting effects.
Chronic hepatitis means the virus stays in your liver for your whole life. You may not always feel sick, but over time the virus can hurt your liver without you being aware and prevent it from working properly. As more liver cells are damaged and destroyed, scar tissue takes their place. This is known as fibrosis. Severe fibrosis can cause the liver to harden, preventing it from functioning as it should. This is called cirrhosis of the liver. In a small number of cases, serious damage to the liver can lead to liver failure and, ultimately, liver cancer.
Liver check-ups: easy, painless and lifesaving.
Without treatment, both hepatitis B and hepatitis C risk causing cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Even if you feel well, you may need treatment.
A liver check-up usually starts with blood tests to measure how well your liver is working. The next stage is a Fibroscan® or a liver ultrasound.
These liver test results enable your GP or specialist to decide the most effective treatment to slow down and reverse liver damage. You may also be encouraged to have a regular liver check-up every three, six or twelve months to keep track of your liver’s health.
Hepatitis Infoline - 1800 437 222 (1800 HEP ABC)
Talk to someone in your state or territory
The National Hepatitis Infoline directs you to the community-based hepatitis organisation in your state or territory. The people taking your calls are trained by hepatitis organisations that are members of Hepatitis Australia. They provide on the ground support in local communities and offer friendly and confidential help. Because you will be talking to a worker in your state or territory they will have good knowledge about hepatitis and relevant services available in you state or territory.
The Infoline is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, except for public holidays.
For more Information and support with Hepatits head to www.hepatitisaustralia.com
Content has been kindly supplied by Hepatitis Australia