Hepatitis viruses are generally classified in five different types: types A, B, C, D, and E. The strains are believed to be caused by five unique hepatitis viruses. Although all forms of the virus can be dangerous and debilitating, hepatitis C and B are generally considered the most dangerous.
Hepatitis C is thought to be caused by contact with the virus HCV. In order to become infected, the virus generally must be transferred by means of contact with the body fluids of an infected individual. Some of the most common means of infection include sexual transmission and contact with infected blood. People who engage in recreational intravenous drug use are considered a high-risk group because they sometimes share needles. In addition, blood transfusions pose some risk, however, this risk is generally considered minimal because donated blood goes through rigorous testing to be sure it is clear of infection.
In patients who suffer from hepatitis C, liver damage is one of the most serious risks. The condition can sometimes lead to liver scarring and cirrhosis of the liver. In some instances, liver cancer can develop. A drug called interferon appears to be one of the most effective treatments available for hepatitis viruses. Sometimes hepatitis C can be cured, though there is no immunization against the virus.
Though hepatitis C is considered the most dangerous of the hepatitis viruses, most studies indicate that hepatitis B poses almost as much risk, and both can lead to liver disease. Transference of hepatitis B is the same as with hepatitis C, however, hepatitis B results from contamination with the virus HBV, and can sometimes be spread through more generalized contact, such as sharing toothbrushes or razors. The main difference between hepatitis B and C, from the perspective of a patient, is that hepatitis B can sometimes be prevented by means of immunization.
Hepatitis A is believed to be caused by the virus HBC, and is spread in the same ways as hepatitis B and C. Unlike B and C, hepatitis A can also be contracted by consuming liquids or foods that are contaminated with the virus. It is not considered a chronic condition, and may clear up without treatment. Most of the time, complete recovery is possible for those who suffer from hepatitis A, and like hepatitis B, there is a vaccine available.
The two remaining types of hepatitis, D and E, are considered rarer. Hepatitis D can only be contracted by a person who is already suffering from hepatitis B, and is spread by blood and body fluids. Hepatitis E is considered a very rare condition, not common in Western cultures. It can cause liver swelling, but is not thought of as chronic. Hepatitis E is generally spread by oral or anal sex, or drinking water that is contaminated with the virus.