Hepatitis C vs. Hepatitis B: What's the Difference?

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  • The Types of Hepatitis

    The Types of Hepatitis

    Each of the hepatitis viruses is different, but they all share a target: the liver. The liver performs more than 500 vital functions in your body, according to Wexner Medical Center. Many of the liver’s functions involve cleansing blood, fighting infection, and storing energy. But hepatitis threatens the liver’s ability to function.

    The main hepatitis viruses fall into five different types: A, B, C, D, and E. The most common types are A, B and C. Hepatitis B and C present more serious risk to the patient.

    Click through the slideshow to learn more about the difference between hepatitis B and C.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms

    All forms of hepatitis present similar types of symptoms. Possible symptoms include:

    • fever
    • joint pain
    • fatigue
    • nausea
    • loss of appetite
    • vomiting
    • abdominal pain

    Other possible symptoms are bowel movements that appear gray in color or jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes.

    At first, you may have hepatitis C without being aware of it. You may even mistake it for the flu.

  • Prevalence and How They’re Transmitted

    Prevalence and How They’re Transmitted

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3.2 million U.S. residents are infected with chronic hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is spread through coming into contact with infected blood. This usually happens through sharing contaminated needles used for injected drugs. Less often, hepatitis C is transmitted through sexual contact, birth to a mother with the hepatitis C virus, or a needlestick injury.

    Chronic hepatitis B affects about 1.2 million U.S. residents, according to the CDC. This form of hepatitis is more likely to be spread by birth to an infected mother and sexual contact. Drug equipment and needlesticks are less likely causes. The virus can be spread by semen as well as blood.

  • Incubation and Risk Groups

    Incubation and Risk Groups

    Hepatitis C averages an incubation period of 45 days, but can range from 14 to 180 days. Hepatitis B incubation averages 120 days, and can range from 45 to 160 days.

    Current or former injection drug users form the highest risk group for hepatitis C. If you had a blood transfusion before July 1992, you are also at risk.

    For hepatitis B, the highest risk group is infants born to infected mothers. Others who have a high risk of hepatitis B are sex partners of infected persons and people with multiple sex partners.

  • Acute Vs. Chronic Infection

    Acute Vs. Chronic Infection

    Doctors distinguish between chronic and acute infection with hepatitis viruses. Acute infection is short-term, under six months. Chronic infection means a person has the infection long-term, or for more than six months.

    Hepatitis B infection can be either acute or chronic. Hepatitis C, by contrast, tends to be chronic. Among adults, 75 to 85 percent of those newly infected with hepatitis C develop a chronic infection, according to the CDC. Others clear the infection. Symptomatic acute hepatitis C is rare. According to one report, it occurs in only 15 percent of those infected.

  • Testing

    Testing

    A blood test screening can tell if you have hepatitis antibodies in your blood stream.

    If you have hepatitis antibodies, your doctor will then determine if the actual virus still resides in your bloodstream. A second test looks at whether you have an acute or chronic hepatitis infection, based on the presence of what are called surface antigens for hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus RNA. It’s possible to have both hepatitis B and C infections at the same time.

  • Prevention

    Prevention

    You can take a vaccine to prevent hepatitis B. The CDC recommends the vaccine for:

    • all infants at birth
    • older children who have not been vaccinated
    • sex partners of those infected
    • people with multiple sex partners
    • men who have sex with men
    • injection drug users
    • people with an HIV infection

    There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but you can attempt to prevent it by not sharing needles or razors with those infected.

  • Treatment

    Treatment

    Your doctor may provide antiviral drugs for either hepatitis B or C. You may also receive treatment designed to protect the liver and to provide greater comfort.

    For hepatitis C, a combination of drugs can help clear the virus from your system. The recommended combination depends on the virus genotype.

    For any type of hepatitis, your doctor will also advise avoiding alcohol to protect your liver from additional damage.

References:

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