Types of Hepatitis - A, B, C: Why Test?

November 22, 2011

The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. However, hepatitis also refers to a group of viral infections that can affect the liver, causing inflammation and leading to liver damage or cancer. The most common types of hepatitis viral infections are A, B, and C, and the best way to determine if you have one of these viral infections is through hepatitis blood testing. However, what are the similarities and differences between the types?

The similarities among the Hepatitis A, B, and C virus types are that they all can affect the liver, but to what extent is the difference.

Hepatitis A

For example, Hepatitis A is quite a bit different from Hepatitis B and C because it is typically a rapid, but temporary illness (an acute  illness) that rarely becomes persistent or long-lasting (a chronic illness), and it can be spread from person to person like other viral infections, like conjunctivitis or the flu.

Commonly contracted by human contact with fecal matter, it is usually the result of improper hand washing. It then can be spread easily and frequently through food and water at restaurants or day care centers and also through oral secretions, such as intimate kissing.

Another big difference is that most people with Hepatitis A recover completely without any specific treatment. Of course, care should involve a doctor and medication is available to relieve symptoms. In addition, great attention should be taken to remain hydrated during recovery.

Blood testing can detect Hepatitis A as well as immunity due to vaccination or clinical recovery. The incubation period for certain type A antibodies to be detectable for Hepatitis A testing is three to four weeks after initial exposure. However other antibodies may persist indefinitely and can be detected through Hepatitis A total testing.

Hepatitis B and C

In contrast with type A Hepatitis, types B and C can both become chronic (lasting longer than 6 months) for 5% and up to 80% of infected patients respectively.

Both B and C can also be spread by sexual contact or through blood and/or serum (the liquid part of the blood).  This means that besides sexual contact, it is possible for the virus to be spread through shared toothbrushes (if blood is present), syringes and razors, as well as unsanitary tattooing and body piercing needles.

Hemophiliacs who receive blood clotting factors as well as health care workers, who could be accidentally stuck with an infected needle, are also at a higher risk.

For treatment of types B and C, medication for chronic hepatitis is imperative to control liver damage.

The one other similarity that Hepatitis B and C share with Hepatitis A, besides inflaming the liver, is that these viruses are detected with blood testing. Yet, several different Hepatitis testing is available for detecting whether you have immunity, whether you have the virus is in the blood, stage of infection, and, in the case of type Hepatitis C, testing to confirm a previous false positive.

Chronic Hepatitis Prognosis

It should be noted that patients with chronic hepatitis are at risk for cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure or liver cancer. This is why the sooner Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C is detected, the better the prognosis. Unfortunately, hepatitis symptoms can remain silent for years. If symptoms of Hepatitis A, B and C do occur, however, all can mimic flu-like symptoms or even liver problems, such as dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). And, if the person drinks excessively, it can cause liver problems to develop faster.

If you are person who could be at risk for developing Hepatitis A, B or C, learn how you can order a confidential hepatitis blood test online.  Take care of your health today.