Liver inflammation is called hepatitis. An inflammation occurs when the body’s tissues are injured or infected. This can lead to liver damage. As a result of this swelling and damage, your liver may not function as well as it should.
Depending on the severity, hepatitis may be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). There are types of hepatitis that cause only acute infections. There are other types that can cause acute as well as chronic infections.
Hepatitis: what causes it?
Hepatitis has different types and causes:
- There are several types of hepatitis, but viral hepatitis is the most common. A, B, C, D, and E are the most common hepatitis viruses.
- Hepatitis caused by alcoholism
- A poison, chemical, medicine, or supplement can cause toxic hepatitis
- The immune system attacks your liver in chronic autoimmune hepatitis. Genetics and your environment may play a role, but the cause is unknown.
Viral hepatitis: how does it spread?
A person with hepatitis A or E usually spreads the disease by contaminating food or water with their stool. Also, you can contract hepatitis E if you eat undercooked pork, deer, or shellfish.
Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and hepatitis D are spread through blood contact. Other body fluids can also spread hepatitis B and D. For example, sharing needles or having unprotected sex can spread the virus.
Hepatitis: who is at risk?
Different types of hepatitis carry different risks. If you have unprotected sex, your risk is higher with most viral types. Long-term drinkers are at risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis.
Many people with hepatitis do not have symptoms and are unaware they are infected.
You may experience symptoms such as:
- Appetite loss
- Vomiting or nausea
- Pain in the abdomen
- Dark urine
- Clay-coloured bowel movements
- Joint pain
- Skin and eye yellowing, jaundice
Acute infections can cause symptoms 2 weeks to 6 months after getting infected. Chronic infections may not cause symptoms for many years.
In severe cases, chronic hepatitis can result in cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver failure, and liver cancer. These complications may be prevented if chronic hepatitis is diagnosed early and treated effectively.
Diagnosis includes assessment and examination besides blood tests, including tests for viral hepatitis, imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI or a liver biopsy to get a clear diagnosis and check for liver damage
Treatment for hepatitis depends on the type and severity of the disease. Acute viral hepatitis usually resolves on its own. Rest and fluids may be all you need to feel better. It may, however, be more serious in some cases. Hospital treatment might even be necessary.
Different types of chronic hepatitis require different types of medicines. Surgical procedures and other medical procedures may also be possible treatments. A person with alcoholic hepatitis needs to stop drinking. Depending on the severity of your chronic hepatitis, you may need a liver transplant.
To discuss diagnosis and treatment options, please book an appointment with our specialist.
To learn more about hepatitis, please click on https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis/
Dr Ibrahim Yahli MD MRCPsych