Hepatitis is the term used for liver inflammation in the Greek language. It’s characterized by destruction of liver cells and development of inflammatory cells in liver tissues. It can be caused by viruses like hepatitis B and A since they attack mainly on liver cells. Patients of glandular fever, a condition caused by Epstein-Barr virus, may also suffer from hepatitis attacks.
According to the duration for which it lasts, liver hepatitis can be divided into two main categories:
- Chronic hepatitis is one that lasts for over 6 months.
- Acute hepatitis lasts for less than 6 months.
Causes of Acute Hepatitis
There are a number of potential causes of acute liver hepatitis:
- Viral and infectious hepatitis like hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E
- Acute infections by bacteria
- Viral disease like glandular fever or cytomegalovirus
- Amoebic infections
- Paracetamol poisoning
- Effects of medications like halothane (anesthetic)
- Alcoholic hepatitis from toxins in alcohol
- Fungal toxins like toadstool poisoning
Causes of Chronic Hepatitis
There are also a number of causes for chronic hepatitis:
- Toxins like alcohol
- Infectious hepatitis like hepatitis B,C, and D
- Drug reactions
- Metabolic disorders of the internal system like Wilson’s disease – disorder of body copper metabolism
- Haemochromatosis – disorder of body iron metabolism
- Autoimmune hepatitis. In this disease, the patient’s own immune system destroys a number of the liver cells. This often occurs as acute hepatitis as well. The reason behind its development is yet still unknown.
Means of Acquiring Hepatitis
You can get hepatitis by contracting one or more of the viruses that causes inflammation of the liver. You can also get is as a result of contact with substances that cause hepatitis, like fungal toxins, certain medicines, and alcohol.
Diagnosis of Hepatitis
The severity and cause of hepatitis can be determined using blood tests. Extra information can be gained using other kinds of liver scans and ultrasounds. In certain cases, liver biopsy may also be recommended. This is where a tiny liver piece is examined under a microscope. Generally, the process is carried out under local anesthesia in specialist units as day cases.
Since acute infections are rarely threatening to life, it is usually left to heal with no particular treatment. Although hepatitis c or B can potentially become chronic, hepatitis A has never done so in medical history. If acute hepatitis has been caused by alcoholic exposure or certain medicines, the patient usually recovers once liver is not exposed to those substances anymore.
Chronic hepatitis of other kinds can also cause cirrhosis. About a fifth of patients with chronic hepatitis C and B are at risk of developing liver cancer or liver cirrhosis. Alcoholic hepatitis is also one of the leading causes of death in the US.
Treatment for Hepatitis
Generally, no medical treatment is necessary for acute viral hepatitis. Antiviral agents like interferon alfa can be used in treatment of chronic hepatitis B. Tribavirin or ribavirin and interferon alfa can be used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Auto-immune hepatitis can be treated using corticosteroids.