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Hepatitis

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are all viral infections that negatively affect liver functioning.  Each viral infection, however, is unique and requires different diagnostic tests, shows different signs and symptoms, and has different treatment options.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection that causes inflammation in the liver.  Luckily, hepatitis A is not usually life threatening and does not result in permanent liver damage.  For many people the infection resolves itself on its own within a month, while others may have relapses or lingering symptoms from six to nine months after being infected.  After being infected an individual may not see any symptoms for about two weeks but is still infectious during this time.  A hepatitis blood test can detect the infection before any outward symptoms occur.  Symptoms of hepatitis A include loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, and joint pain.  Individuals at high risk of hepatitis A should pay special attention to these symptoms.  Risk factors for hepatitis A include having sexual contact with another person infected with hepatitis A, visiting places that have a high incidence of hepatitis A, and eating or drinking unclean food or water. 

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver and is highly contagious.  Unfortunately, a hepatitis B carrier may be contagious but not have any symptoms for as many as 180 days.  Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected individual.  In the United Sates the virus is mostly spread through sexual contact and intravenous drug use.  Hepatitis B can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but there is a vaccine that can protect one from catching the disease.  If one is infected with hepatitis B, one might have symptoms such as fatigue, dark urine, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, and yellowing of the skin.  If one is unsure if he or she is infected, a simple blood test for hepatitis can be performed. 

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver that often starts as an acute disease and then develops into a chronic infection that continues to cause liver problems.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 75 to 85 percent of individuals who catch the hepatitis C infection will develop the chronic infection.  Unlike hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is no vaccine to help prevent hepatitis C.  It is important to know if one is infected with hepatitis C so that one can take precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus.  A blood test for hepatitis C is an easy way to determine whether or not one is infected.  Symptoms, like the other hepatitis viruses, include yellowing of the skin and eyes, fatigue, dark urine, abdominal pain, and joint pain.

How the Blood Test Works

A hepatitis blood test screens an individual’s blood for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C antibodies.  If there are hepatitis antibodies in an individual’s blood, his or her immune system is either currently fighting a hepatitis infection or has fought the infection in the past. 

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