How hepatitis affects your liver’s health.

Let’s begin by getting to know your liver. Place your hand on the right-hand side of your abdomen, just below your diaphragm, behind your ribs, and there it is — the largest organ inside your body. It’s about the size of a rugby ball, and weighs around 1.5 kilograms. Every day, it performs the following functions:

  • 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

Perhaps most ingenious of all, your liver is the only organ able to regenerate itself by creating new tissue. So it can still cope with doing all of the above even if it is diseased, just not as efficiently.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver.

When the liver is damaged by viruses, alcohol, drugs or over consumption of other toxins, hepatitis can develop. In less common cases, a breakdown in the immune system can cause hepatitis.

Five hepatitis viruses are known to infect and inflame the liver, these are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. The symptoms of all five viruses can be similar. But the main difference is the way they are transmitted and the effects they have on your health. The two most common types of liver inflammation are hepatitis B and hepatitis C. While Hep C is more than 95% curable, there is still no cure for Hep B, but it can be neutralised with an anti-viral treatment.

Hepatitis can be acute or chronic.

By acute we mean the illness lasts a short time. Some people may experience some effects but serious illness during acute hepatitis infection is not common except for hepatitis A, which is less common in Australia. Most people recover from this illness within a few weeks with no lasting effects.

A chronic illness, on the other hand, can last a long time if not a lifetime. That’s because the virus reproduces in the liver, causing liver damage. As more liver cells are damaged and destroyed, scar tissue takes their place. This is known as fibrosis. Severe fibrosis can cause the liver to harden, preventing it from functioning as it should. This is called cirrhosis of the liver. In a small number of cases, serious damage to the liver can lead to liver failure and, ultimately, liver cancer. 

Liver check-ups: easy, painless and life saving.

Without treatment, both hepatitisB and hepatitis C risk causing cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer. Even if you feel well, you may need treatment for either.

A liver check-up usually starts with blood tests to measure how well your liver is working. The next stage is a FibroScan or a liver ultrasound. This video below shows you what happens during a liver check-up. 

These liver test results enable your GP or specialist to decide the most effective treatment to slow down and reverse liver damage. You may also be encouraged to have a regular liver check-up every three, six or twelve months so as to keep track of your liver’s health.




MORE INFORMATION

For more information about hepatitis and your liver you can contact the National Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222. 

More about hepatitis

Use the following links to find out more about hepatitis on this site.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Page updated: 23 May 2019