Hepatitis refers to the swelling of the liver. It can be caused by viral infections, chemicals, drug abuse, some medications and immune disorders. There are several forms of viral hepatitis including hepatitis A, B and C, which are caused by hepatitis A, B, and C viruses, respectively.
Each type of viral hepatitis is spread by different methods and needs different treatment.
Hepatitis A virus infection causes acute inflammation (swelling) of the liver and is a self-limiting disease with symptoms lasting for several weeks before the individual can recover completely. It leads to lifelong immunity.
Hepatitis B infection is the most common infection of the liver. The majority of infected individuals recover from acute hepatitis B infections and become immune to it. However some people can develop a long-term hepatitis B infection, which leads to serious complications including chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure and liver cancer. Hepatitis B is endemic in Singapore and around 4% of the population are hepatitis B carriers.
Hepatitis C infection is responsible for the development of chronic liver disease worldwide. Most infected people can’t get rid of the virus, and thus the virus causes ongoing damage to the liver over the years. Similar to hepatitis B, hepatitis C can lead to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.