Liver Hepatitis C Diagnosis Types

The most common cause of liver inflammation is the hepatitis virus, of which several different types have been identified. Some types of hepatitis are rare, some are acute and some are serious chronic diseases that may cause extensive liver damage.

Hepatitis A (HAV)

Hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated food or water, making hand washing an important preventative strategy. Sexual contact may also lead to infection, particularly anal sex. Hepatitis A was common in the late 1980s and 1990s, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report a 92 percent reduction since 2007, partially due to vaccinations and education (2009).

Hepatitis A doesn’t cause any chronic complications, but the following symptoms may last for two to six months:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

Hepatitis B, which has symptoms similar to HAV, can lead to lifelong infection, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. The CDC reports that though universal vaccination has decreased the number of new cases (only 1.5 per 100,000 population), 800,000 to 1.4 million people in the United States still suffer from chronic hepatitis B (2009).

Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact (such as sexual contact or IV drug use) with infected blood or body fluids. A mother may also pass HBV to her child during birth. Along with proper vaccination, practicing safe sex and avoiding IV drug use may lower the risk of infection.

As a precaution, people with HBV shouldn’t donate blood, organs or tissues. Hepatitis B treatment options include antiviral drugs and liver transplantation.

Hepatitis C (HCV)

HCV, like hepatitis B, is transmitted via contaminated blood or body fluids. Hepatitis C risk factors include:

  • A blood transfusion or organ transplant performed prior to 1992
  • History of long-term kidney dialysis
  • Intravenous drug use
  • Preexisting liver disease.

When hepatitis C symptoms appear, they often resemble those of hepatitis A. However, lack of initial symptoms often points to chronic hepatitis C, which may result in liver damage before it’s diagnosed.

Although no vaccine is available for hepatitis C, it can be treated with antiviral drugs. In the case of severe liver damage, transplantation may be necessary.

Other Types of Hepatitis Virus

Several less common types of hepatitis may also occur:

  • Hepatitis D (HDV): Hepatitis D requires the presence of hepatitis B (co-infection) to reproduce, so it’s often transmitted along with HBV. IV drug use and unprotected sexual contact increase your risk of contracting hepatitis D.
  • Hepatitis E (HEV): Hepatitis E, transmitted through contaminated food and water, is more common in countries without advanced public sanitation systems. Since no vaccine is available, avoid drinking tap water and maintain good hygiene when visiting these countries. Hepatitis E generally resolves in a few months.
  • Hepatitis F and G: Isolated cases of HFV and HGV have been reported, but more research is necessary, and recorded diagnosis of the diseases is rare.

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Unlike other types of hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis isn’t a virus, but rather an abnormal immune system response that causes the body to attack the liver. Its symptoms resemble those of hepatitis A, and women and people with existing autoimmune disorders appear to be the most susceptible. In order to prevent liver damage, treatment involves immune system suppressants (usually prednisone and azathioprine).

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Hepatitis A: Statistics and surveillance. Retrieved October 1, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HAV/StatisticsHAV.htm#section1.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Hepatitis A. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-a/DS00397.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Hepatitis B. Retrieved September 27, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hepatitis-b/DS00398.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2008). Autoimmune hepatitis. Retrieved September 28, 2010, from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/autoimmunehep/.