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Hepatitis may cause liver problems

Hepatitis may cause liver problems
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2-minute read

Hepatitis is an illness that inflames and damages your liver. It affects the liver’s ability to do its job, which includes making proteins and clearing the blood of unwanted impurities. Hepatitis is usually, but not always, caused by an infection.

Types of hepatitis

There are many types of hepatitis which cause symptoms that range from mild to very serious.

Five types of viral hepatitis are:

  • hepatitis A – an illness that can last from a few weeks to six months
  • hepatitis B – a serious infection that can lead to liver damage
  • hepatitis C – a disease that is now easily treatable
  • hepatitis D – a disease that only affects people infected with Hepatitis B, and is a rarer type of hepatitis in Australia
  • hepatitis E – a short-term illness that can be severe in pregnant women, but is rare in Australia

There are other types of hepatitis that are not infectious, including:

  • autoimmune hepatitis
  • alcoholic hepatitis

Having one type of hepatitis doesn’t stop you from getting other types.

Hepatitis symptoms

Depending on the type of hepatitis you have, the symptoms may include:

You can also have hepatitis without knowing it and without any symptoms.

What causes hepatitis

Hepatitis A infection is spread by direct contact with a person who has the illness, or from consuming food, drink or ice contaminated with the faeces (poo) of an infected person. Hepatitis A infection in Australians is commonly acquired while travelling overseas to countries where the disease is common, so check with your doctor if you need travel vaccinations.

There have been a number of outbreaks of hepatitis A across Australia caused by people eating imported contaminated frozen berries. When this happens, the affected brands of frozen berries are recalled, and health warnings and information issued by the Australian Government Department of Health.

Hepatitis B spreads through contact with the bodily fluids (such as blood, sweat, saliva or semen) of a person who has it. You can have hepatitis B without knowing it and may be a carrier.

Hepatitis C is usually transferred by blood, such as between intravenous drug users, or between a mother and her baby.

Hepatitis diagnosis

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you for signs of hepatitis. Infection with hepatitis A, B and C can be confirmed with blood tests.

You can talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk of being infected with hepatitis through contact with bodily fluids or medical treatments. Also discuss prevention if you’re planning to travel to a country where you might consume contaminated food or water.

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Last reviewed: May 2018

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