The liver is a vital organ which, among other things, removes toxins from the body and filters the blood. The liver has astounding regenerative powers, but certain viruses can attack it, causing potentially life-threatening problems.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a swelling or inflammation of the liver. There could be a number of causes, including alcohol misuse, an autoimmune condition, trauma, and viruses. In the case of the latter, when a virus is the cause of the inflammation, a person is said to have viral hepatitis.
The most common causes of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and hepatitis E. These are different viruses that can cause inflammation of the liver. There are other, less common, causes of viral hepatitis like yellow fever, but here we will look at Hepatitis A, B, C, and E.
Very often, hepatitis has no, or very mild, symptoms. Where it does, a range of symptoms may be present:
- Reduced appetite
- Abdominal pain
- A high temperature
- Muscle and joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
- Itchy skin
- Dark urine
- Pale stool
Hepatitis may last for a short period and clear on its own. This short-lived inflammation is known as acute hepatitis. Long-term hepatitis, or chronic hepatitis, is much more serious and can eventually lead to scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver.