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Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C Blood Tests

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Did you think that liver damage was only caused by alcohol? Well think again...

Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) are serious viral illnesses that lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. In fact HCV accounts for 40% of all chronic liver disease. 170 million people are infected worldwide, 4 million in the USA with 40,000 acute cases of hepatitis C.  According to the CDC, 800,000 to 1.4 million in the USA are infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute hepatitis is eventually eliminated from the body, chronic hepatitis remains in the body throughout the carrier’s lifetime. A majority of those infected will develop chronic hepatitis. Of the 4 million Americans infected with HCV, only ½ million have been treated with a vast majority not identified. HCV is the leading cause for liver transplant in the USA. Common causes include:

  • IV drug abuse
  • Transfusion of blood products
  • Sexual transmission
  • Body piercing and tattoos
  • Medical personnel needle sticks
  • Familial/household contacts
  • 13% unknown

A variety of liver conditions that may be related to hepatitis infections include:

  • Hemochromatosis
  • Alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency
  • Autoimmune hepatopathy
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • Medication effects
  • Metastatic disease
  • Extra-hepatic obstruction (stone, neoplasm, benign stricture)

It is possible to have hepatitis and not know it. However, many with hepatitis experience general ill health that can be confused with other common ailments. Many flu-like symptoms such as fever, appetite loss, muscle aches and vomiting can be misdiagnosed. Telltale symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle and joint aches and pain
  • Insomnia
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Generalized itching (Pruritus)
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and yellow around the white part of the eyes)
  • Swelling
  • Abdominal pain (right upper abdomen)
  • Fluid build-up in the abdomen  (ascites accumulation)
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Confusion
  • Loss of libido
  • Lack of focus
  • Appetite loss - anorexia
  • Dark urine
  • Dilated veins in the esophagus  (Bleeding varices)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pale or clay-colored stools

The most common risk factors for contracting Hepatitis are as follows:

  • Injecting illicit drugs
  • Ongoing HIV infection
  • Engaging in unprotected sexual activity with an infected person
  • Hemophiliacs who received clotting factors prior to 1987
  • Anyone who has ever been on hemodialysis
  • Cases of unexplained liver test abnormalities
  • Recipients of blood transfusions prior to 1992
  • Organ transplant recipients of any sort
  • Children born of infected mothers
Those working in healthcare in any capacity after a needle stick or mucosal injury to infected blood

All articles have been researched and written by a non-medical professional writer, Colleen Reynolds, APR, and approved by Medical Director, Edward Salko, Jr., D.O.

All content has been updated as of 3/23/2011.

Hepatitis B is a viral infection, usually transmitted sexually, that can cause severe liver damage

Hepatitis is a growing and dangerous epidemic occurring world-wide. Spread primarily through sexual contact and sharing needles, the disease often goes undetected until severe liver damage occurs. Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) are different viruses with very similar symptoms and risks. Abnormal liver function tests can be a result of HBV or HCV.

This profile tests for the presence of antibodies produced by the body as a result of exposure to the hepatitis B virus.

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