Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It is most often caused by one of several viruses. It can sometimes be caused by certain drugs, chemicals, or poisons. Hepatitis can be either acute or it can be chronic. If it turns out to be acute, this means it can affect a person for a certain length of time. If it is chronic, this means it can last indefinitely in a person’s lifetime.
`Viral hepatitis often begins with flu like symptoms such as fatigue, headache, nausea, and a low grade fever. As symptoms worsen, jaundice can appear. This is when the skin turns yellow, and the whites of the eyes turn yellow. The urine can become brown and the stools may become pale. There can also be pain on the right side below the ribs.
In severe cases, jaundice can be intense and liver failure can develop with possible effects on other organs. The brains can also be affected whereby this can cause a person to go into a coma.
A physician can sometimes suspect acute hepatitis from the symptoms. To diagnose as to what is going on with the liver, a physician may give an ultrasound scan of the liver and a liver function test to find out the cause of the jaundice.
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis. If drug or chemical poisoning is suspected, the physician will try to stop the patient’s exposure to it. Sometimes, detoxification may be possible by using an antidote to the substance.
Hepatitis A is a virus spread through food, water, eating utensils toys, and other objects that have been contaminated by feces, usually from dirty hands. Prevention of hepatitis A is the main reason restaurant employees and child care workers are required to wash their hands after using the washroom.
Hepatitis B is a more serious form of viral hepatitis. Hepatitis B can become chronic. This is when the inflammation of the liver can last indefinitely, and if it worsens, there can be damage to the liver or even cirrhosis. Hepatitis B spreads mainly through blood and bloody fluids, sexual contact, and contaminated needles used with intravenous drugs. It can also be spread if needles are contaminated when used for tattooing, acupuncture, or ear piercing.
Hepatitis C is a viral hepatitis that spreads mainly through blood transfusions and through contaminated needles. It cn also be spread by sexual relations and tattooing. Symptoms usually appear 1 to 10 weeks after exposure. Hepatitis C can lead to chronic hepatitis.
Drinking too much alcohol can cause any of the forms of hepatitis, or it can worsen if someone already has any of the types of the viral hepatitis.
Source: A Practical Guide to Everyday Health Decisions