Alternate Names : Viral Hepatitis
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can affect how the
What is going on in the body?
The liver is an important organ in the body located in the upper right quadrant
of the abdomen. It is responsible for:
filtering the blood
making bile, a substance that aids in digestion and helps rid the body of harmful
processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later use
making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and
storing vitamins A, B12,
D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also
stores iron and copper.
If the liver becomes inflamed, its ability to perform these functions may be
impaired. Liver disease can be caused
by a variety of conditions including viral infections, bacterial invasion, and
chemical or physical changes within the body.
Symptoms of hepatitis may be
acute, occurring suddenly, or chronic, developing
slowly over a long period of time. Hepatitis may range from mild to severe
depending on the type of hepatitis infection.
There are 5 main forms of hepatitis, each named for the type of virus causing the
inflammation. These are:
hepatitis A, which usually only
causes problems in the liver. It is primarily spread through food or water that
is contaminated by the hepatitis A virus from an infected person. Hepatitis A
often occurs in epidemic settings.
hepatitis B, which has been found in
blood, saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions. It can be spread through sexual
contact with an infected individual, passed on to a newborn from an infected
mother during childbirth, or transmitted from contact with infected blood or
hepatitis C, which may be spread by
infected IV drug users, by blood
transfusions that were not screened for hepatitis, and by some organ transplants. Sharing contaminated
personal hygiene items, such as toothbrushes and razors, may also cause the
spread of hepatitis C.
hepatitis D, which is spread through
contaminated needles or sexual contact. Hepatitis D cannot survive in
the body unless the person is also infected with the hepatitis B virus.
hepatitis E, which is found
primarily in underdeveloped countries with poor sanitation. It is primarily spread
through food or water contamination.
Hepatitis B, C, and D can cause lifelong symptoms and problems in the liver as
well as in other parts of the body.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
The causes and
risks of hepatitis vary, depending on the form of hepatitis. The
hepatitis virus may be spread a number of ways, including:
sexual contact with a person who is infected by the virus
shared IV drug needles
intranasal cocaine use
exposure to infected healthcare workers, including dentists
contamination of a healthcare worker during patient care
contaminated blood transfusions that
were given prior to the screening for
food or water that has been contaminated by feces from an infected person
contaminated water and food consumed during travel to Third World countries
exposure to the infected mother during childbirth
sharing contaminated personal hygiene items, such as razors, toothbrushes, or