Learn About Hepatitis

What is the definition of Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver.

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What are the causes of Hepatitis?

Hepatitis can be caused by:

  • Immune cells in the body attacking the liver
  • Infections from viruses (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C), bacteria, or parasites
  • Liver damage from alcohol or poison
  • Medicines, such as an overdose of acetaminophen
  • Fatty liver

Liver disease can also be caused by inherited disorders such as cystic fibrosis or hemochromatosis, a condition that involves having too much iron in your body.

Other causes include Wilson disease, a disorder in which the body retains too much copper and ingestion of toxic mushrooms.

What are the different types of Hepatitis?

Common conditions include: Autoimmune Hepatitis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis?

Hepatitis may start and get better quickly. It may also become a long-term condition. In some cases, hepatitis may lead to liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis, liver cancer or even death.

There are several factors that can affect how severe the condition is. These may include the cause of the liver damage and any illnesses you have. Hepatitis A, for example, is most often short-term and does not lead to chronic liver problems.

The symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • Pain or bloating in the belly area
  • Dark urine and pale or clay-colored stools
  • Fatigue
  • Low grade fever
  • Itching
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

You may not have symptoms when first infected with hepatitis B or C. You can still develop liver failure later. If you have any risk factors for either type of hepatitis, you should be tested often.

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What are the current treatments for Hepatitis?

Your health care provider will talk to you about treatment options. Treatments will vary, depending on the cause of your liver disease. You may need to eat a high-calorie diet if you are losing weight.

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What are the support groups for Hepatitis?

More information and support for people with hepatitis and their families can be found by joining a support group. Ask your provider about liver disease resources and support groups in your area.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Hepatitis?

The outlook for hepatitis will depend on what is causing the liver damage.

What are the possible complications of Hepatitis?

Complications may include:

  • Permanent liver damage, called cirrhosis
  • Liver failure
  • Liver cancer
When should I contact a medical professional for Hepatitis?

Seek care immediately if you:

  • Have symptoms from too much acetaminophen or other medicines. You may need to have your stomach pumped
  • Vomit blood
  • Have bloody or tarry stools
  • Are confused or delirious

Contact your provider if:

  • You have any symptoms of hepatitis or believe that you have been exposed to hepatitis A, B, or C.
  • You cannot keep food down due to excessive vomiting. You may need to receive nutrition through a vein (intravenously).
  • You feel sick and have travelled to Asia, Africa, South America, or Central America.
How do I prevent Hepatitis?

Talk to your provider about having a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Steps for preventing the spread of hepatitis B and C from one person to another include:

  • Avoid sharing personal items, such as razors or toothbrushes.
  • DO NOT share drug needles or other drug equipment (such as straws for snorting drugs).
  • Clean blood spills with a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.
  • DO NOT get tattoos or body piercings with instruments that have not been cleaned properly.

To reduce your risk for spreading or catching hepatitis A:

  • Always wash your hands well after using the restroom, and when you come in contact with an infected person's blood, stools, or other bodily fluid.
  • Avoid unclean food and water.
Hepatitis B virus
Hepatitis C
Liver anatomy
What are the latest Hepatitis Clinical Trials?
Phase 3, Randomized, Open-Label, Parallel Arm Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of 180 mcg Peginterferon Lambda-1a (Lambda) Subcutaneous Injection for 48 Weeks in Patients With Chronic Hepatitis Delta Virus (HDV) Infection (LIMT-2)

Summary: The Phase 3 LIMT-2 study will evaluate the safety and efficacy of Peginterferon Lambda treatment for 48 weeks with 24 weeks follow-up compared to no treatment for 12 weeks in patients chronically infected with HDV. The primary analysis will compare the proportion of patients with HDV RNA < LLOQ at the 24-week post-treatment visit in the Peginterferon Lambda treatment group vs the proportion of pat...

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A Multicenter, Open-label, Randomized Controlled Trial for the Effectiveness of Antiviral TreAtment in Cirrhotic Patients With Low-level Hepatitis B Virus DNA Levels (ATTACH)

Summary: Multicenter, Open-label, Randomized Controlled Trial Male and female adults with liver cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis B virus infection who have low-level viremia and are beyond treatment indications by current guidelines. To assess the efficacy of Tenofovir Alafenamide (TAF) in reducing liver-related events (hepatocellular carcinoma, liver-related events and death, decompensated liver cirrhos...

What are the Latest Advances for Hepatitis?
Patients with positive HER-2 amplification advanced gastroesophageal junction cancer achieved complete response with combined chemotherapy of AK104/cadonilimab (PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific): A case report.
Efficacy and predictive factors of glucocorticoid therapy for patients with hepatitis B virus-related acute-on-chronic liver failure.
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Robotic versus laparoscopic major hepatectomy for hepatocellular carcinoma: short-term outcomes from a single institution.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: February 07, 2022
Published By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Guidelines for viral hepatitis surveillance and case management. www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/statistics/surveillanceguidelines.htm. Updated May 31, 2015. Accessed April 26. 2022.

Czaja AJ. Autoimmune hepatitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 90.

Pawlotsky J-M. Chronic viral and autoimmune hepatitis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 140.

Takyar V, Ghany MG. Hepatitis A, B, D, and E. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2022. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:223-229.

Young J-A H, Ustun C. Infections in recipients of hematopoietic stem cell transplants. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 307.