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Hepatitis | What Is Hepatitis?

Medications, toxins, and autoimmune disorders may cause noninfectious hepatitis. This article focuses on acute infectious hepatitis with a brief discussion of drug-induced and autoimmune hepatitis at the end of the article.

Hepatitis is the Latin word for liver inflammation. It is characterised by the destruction of a number of liver cells and the presence of inflammatory cells in the liver tissue.

Hepatitis can be divided into two subgroups according to its duration:
acute hepatitis – lasting less than six months
chronic hepatitis – lasting longer than six months.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of the most important causes of chronic liver disease in the United States. It accounts for about 15 percent of acute viral hepatitis, 60 to 70 percent of chronic hepatitis, and up to 50 percent of cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, and liver cancer. Of the U.S. population, 1.6 percent, or an estimated 4.1 million Americans, have antibody to HCV (anti-HCV), indicating ongoing or previous infection with the virus. Hepatitis C causes an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 deaths annually in the United States.

How does someone get hepatitis?
The hepatitis A virus can enter a person’s body when he or she eats or drinks something contaminated with the stool or blood of someone who has the disease. Symptoms usually appear suddenly, but are not followed by the chronic (long-lasting) problems that hepatitis B and C viruses can cause.


symptoms may last a few weeks or months.
Nausea
Vomiting
Diarrhea
Loss of appetite
Fatigue
Pain over the liver (on the right side of the abdomen, just under the rib cage)
Jaundice – A condition in which the skin and the whites of the eyes turn yellow

How common is it?
In recent years, about 3000 cases of hepatitis B have been reported annually in Canada, but many more cases probably remain unreported. Incidence of the disease varies from region to region. Analysis of donated blood indicates that about 0.15 percent of donors carry the hepatitis B virus, although for patients in a general hospital it can be as high as 0.80 percent. Blood tests also indicate that about 5 percent of people in Canada have had hepatitis B at some point in their lives.

What is the prognosis of viral hepatitis?
The prognosis of viral hepatitis for most patients is good. Symptoms of viral hepatitis such as fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, and jaundice usually subside in several weeks to months, without any specific treatment. In fact, virtually all patients with acute infection with hepatitis A and most adults (greater than 95%) with acute hepatitis B recover completely.


About the Author:

By: James Sameul

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