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Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver. It is not a condition, but is often used to refer to a viral infection of the liver.
Hepatitis can be caused by:
For more information about the causes and risk factors for different types of hepatitis, see also:
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 (the excess iron deposits in the liver).
Other causes include Wilson's disease.
Hepatitis may start and get better quickly (acute hepatitis), or cause long-term disease (chronic hepatitis). In some instances, it 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:
Many people with hepatitis B or C do not have symptoms when they are first infected. They can still develop liver failure later. If you have any risk factors for either type of hepatitis, you should be tested regularly.
A physical examination may show:
Your doctor may order laboratory tests to diagnose and monitor the hepatitis, including:
Your doctor will discuss possible treatments with you, depending on the cause of your liver disease. Your doctor may recommend a high-calorie diet if you are losing weight.
There are support groups for people with all types of hepatitis, which can help you learn about the latest treatments and better cope with having the disease.
For information on hepatitis outlook, see these articles:
Other complications include:
Seek immediate care if you:
Call your doctor if:
For more information on how to prevent hepatitis, see:
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.