‘Hepatitis’ Means Inflammation Of The Liver
What is hepatitis?
Your liver is on the right-hand side of your abdomen, just below your diaphragm, and behind your ribs. It is the largest organ inside the body and weighs around 1.5 kilograms.
The liver performs over 500 functions, such as:
- clears the blood of waste products, hormones, drugs and other toxins
- breaks down hormones and old blood cells
- makes, stores and releases sugars and fats
- produces essential proteins, including blood clotting factors and enzymes
- aids digestion by releasing bile salts to break down food
- stores and supplies vitamins, minerals and iron to parts of the body where needed.
The liver may be damaged by:
- hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus,
- drugs or
- over-consumption of other toxins, such as prescribed or illicit medications
There are five different hepatitis viruses that are known to cause inflammation of the liver. They are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
- The five different types of hepatitis may have similar symptoms; however,
- Transmission and the effects of each of the different types of hepatitis on your health are different.
- Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the two most common hepatitis viruses in Australia.
Hepatitis can be Acute or Chronic.
- A person may be unwell for a short time, but then recover
- A person may experience symptoms
- Most people do not get seriously ill (except for hepatitis A, which is not common in Australia)
- Most people recover with no lasting effects.
- Chronic hepatitis means the virus stays in the liver for the rest of a person’s life
- The person may not always feel sick
- Over time the virus can damage the liver, causing damage to liver cells and resulting in the liver not functioning properly
- The damaged liver cells form scar tissue which is known as ‘fibrosis’
- Severe fibrosis can cause the liver to harden and prevents the liver from working properly, which is called ‘cirrhosis of the liver’
- In a small number of cases, serious liver damage can lead to liver failure and liver cancer.
Without monitoring and treatment for either/both hepatitis B and C the risk of cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer is high. Even if a person is feeling well they still may require treatment.
A liver check-up is painless and could be lifesaving and all that is required is:
- A simple blood test to measure how your liver is working
- A FibroScan or liver ultrasound – a non-invasive image of a person’s liver
A person may be encouraged to have regular liver checks every three, six or twelve months.