What is worse: hepatitis B or hepatitis C?

Written by susan t. mcclure
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What is worse: hepatitis B or hepatitis C?
Hepatitis can be spread by dirty needles. (Ryan Pye/iStock/Getty Images)

Hepatitis C is worse than hepatitis B because it poses a greater risk for life-threatening liver malfunction. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B but not for hepatitis C.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis B include dark urine, joint pain, nausea and jaundice (yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes) might not occur until two to three months after infection. When first infected with hepatitis C you might experience only mild flu-like symptoms.

Causes

Viruses cause both hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis B spreads more readily because of sexual transmission. Usually hepatitis C spreads when people share dirty needles or through unprotected sex.

Prognosis

Most likely your body will fight off hepatitis B and you will fully recover. Some adults, but more often children, develop chronic infection that can permanently damage their livers. Anti-viral drugs can limit the effects of hepatitis C. Unfortunately you might not realise you have become infected with hepatitis C for some time. Long-term infection (20 years or more) can cause cirrhosis (liver scarring) and liver failure.

Complications

Chronic hepatitis B infection leaves you vulnerable to hepatitis D infection, which can further damage your liver. Even after a liver transplant for hepatitis C, the infection can recur so it remains important to continue taking anti-viral medications.

Prevention

A vaccine exists to treat hepatitis B. However if you become exposed to hepatitis B without having a vaccination, you can reduce your risk of infection by getting treatment within 24 hours. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

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