What is hepatitis?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 caused by diseases that primarily attack the liver cells. It can also arise as a result of a disease such as mononucleosis. Hepatitis can be divided into two subgroups according to its duration:
What can cause acute hepatitis?
Acute hepatitis has a number of possible causes.
- Infectious viral hepatitis such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and hepatitis E.
- Other viral diseases such as: mononucleosis and cytomegalovirus.
- Severe bacterial infections.
- Amoebic infections.
- Medicines, eg paracetamol poisoning and halothane (an anaesthetic).
- Toxins: alcohol and fungal toxins, eg toadstool poisoning.
What can cause chronic hepatitis?
Chronic hepatitis also has a number of different causes.
- Contagious viral hepatitis such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and hepatitis D.
- Toxins such as alcohol.
- Autoimmune hepatitis. This is a disease in which a number of liver cells are destroyed by the patient's own immune system. Autoimmune hepatitis can also sometimes occur as acute hepatitis. The cause is unknown.
- Inborn metabolic disorders, such as Wilson's disease (disorder of the body's copper metabolism) and haemochromatosis (disorder of the body's iron metabolism).
How do you get hepatitis?
A person can develop hepatitis if they contract one of the viruses that can cause liver inflammation, or as a result of exposure to substances that can cause hepatitis - alcohol, fungal toxins and certain medicines.
There are two ways in which medicines can lead to hepatitis: it can either occur as a result of medicine poisoning through overdoses of a medicine (eg paracetamol), or it can occur as a result of an abnormal reaction of the liver to a normal dose (eg halothane, the anaesthetic). Fortunately, the latter type of hepatitis is rare.
tags:How do you get hepatitis?What can cause chronic hepatitis,the liver,