Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver.
Hepatitis can be caused by:
Liver disease can also be caused by inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis or hemochromatosis, a condition that involves having too much iron in your body.
Other causes include Wilson's disease, a disorder in which the body to retains too much copper.
Hepatitis may start and get better quickly. It may also become a long-term condition. In some cases, hepatitis may lead to liver damage, liver failure, or even liver cancer.
How severe hepatitis is depends on many factors, including the cause of the liver damage and any illnesses you have. Hepatitis A, for example, is usually short-term and does not lead to chronic liver problems.
The symptoms of hepatitis include:
You may not have symptoms when first infected with hepatitis B or C. You can still develop liver failure later. If you have any risk factors for either type of hepatitis, you should be tested often.
Exams and Tests
You will have a physical exam to look for:
Your doctor may order lab tests to diagnose and monitor your condition, including:
Your doctor will talk to you about treatment options. Treatments will vary, depending on the cause of your liver disease. You may need to eat a high-calorie diet if you are losing weight.
There are support groups for people with all types of hepatitis. These groups can help you learn about the latest treatments and how to cope with having the disease.
The outlook for hepatitis will depend on what is causing the liver damage.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Seek care immediately if you:
Call your doctor if:
Talk to your doctor about receiving a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Steps for preventing the spread of hepatitis B and C from one person to another include:
To reduce your risk of spreading or catching hepatitis A:
Dienstag JL. Hepatitis B virus infection. N Engl J Med. 2008;359:1486-1500.
Jou JH, Muir AJ. In the clinic. Hepatitis C. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148:iTC6-1-ITC6-16.
Sjogren MH, Cheatham JG. Hepatitis A. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 77.
Pawlotsky JM, Mchutchison J. Chronic viral and autoimmune hepatitis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 151.
Review Date: 10/14/2013
Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team
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