Hepatitis is defined as inflammation of the liver.
Hepatitis can be caused by infections with various organisms, including bacteria, viruses (Hepatitis A, B, C, etc.), or parasites.
Chemical toxins such as alcohol, drugs, or poisonous mushrooms can also damage the liver and cause it to become inflamed. A rare but extremely dangerous cause of hepatitis results from overdose of acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can be deadly.
In addition, immune cells in the body may attack the liver and cause autoimmune hepatitis. Hepatitis may resolve quickly (acute hepatitis), or cause long-term disease (chronic hepatitis). In some instances, progressive liver damage or liver failure may result.
The incidence and severity of hepatitis vary depending on many factors, including the cause of the liver damage and any underlying illnesses in a patient.
Common risk factors include intravenous drug use, Tylenol overdose (the dose needed to cause damage is quite close to the effective dose so be sure to be careful to take Tylenol only as directed), risky sexual behaviors, ingestion of contaminated foods, and alcohol use.
Common types of hepatitis include:
Physical examination may show yellowing of the skin, an enlarged and tender liver, and/or fluid in the abdomen (ascites).
Your doctor may order laboratory tests, including:
An ultrasound of the abdomen may also be recommended.
Treatment varies depending on the cause of the hepatitis.
There are support groups for people with all types of hepatitis, which can help you deal with the disease and learn about the latest treatments.
A good resource is: http://www.hepatitis-central.com/
As with the severity of the disease, the prognosis depends on many factors, including the cause of the hepatitis and whether or not the person has additional illnesses or conditions which can complicate treatment or recovery. Many people recover fully; however, it may take months for the liver to heal.
Permanent liver damage or liver failure can occur.
Call your health care provider if you experience any symptoms.
Hepatitis may be prevented by following the following measures: