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 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. These may include the cause of the liver damage and any illnesses you have. Hepatitis A, for example, is most often 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:
You may have lab tests to diagnose and monitor your condition, including:
Your health care provider 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.
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Seek care immediately if you:
Call your health care provider if:
Talk to your provider about having 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:
Pawlotsky JM, Mchutchison J. Chronic viral and autoimmune hepatitis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 151.
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: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 77.
Sorrell MF, Belongia EA, Costa J, Gareen IF, Grem JL, Inadomi JM, et al. National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement: management of hepatitis B. Ann Intern Med. 2009 Jan 20;150(2):104-10. Epub 2009 Jan 5. PMID: 19124811 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19124811.
Yee HS, Chang MF, Pocha C, Lim J, Ross D, Morgan TR, et al. Update on the management and treatment of hepatitis C virus infection: recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs Hepatitis C Resource Center Program and the National Hepatitis C Program Office. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012 May;107(5):669-89. PMID 22525303 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22525303.
Review Date: 1/11/2015
Reviewed By: Todd Eisner, MD, Private practice specializing in Gastroenterology, and affiliate assistant professor, Florida Atlantic University School of Medicine, Boca Raton, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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