What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis means 'inflammation of the liver'. Hepatitis can be caused by a viral infection (viral hepatitis) or have a non-viral cause. Causes include exposure to certain chemicals (e.g. medications), an autoimmune disease (e.g. autoimmune hepatitis), excessive alcohol consumption (alcoholic hepatitis) or fatty liver. The best-known forms, hepatitis A and B, are caused by viruses. A viral hepatitis is contagious. The degree of infectiousness of hepatitis varies from virus to virus.

Symptoms and causes

Hepatitis can be acute or chronic. In the case of acute hepatitis, it is gone within six months. If the hepatitis lasts longer, then it is chronic. Chronic hepatitis can eventually lead to liver damage and eventually even to liver cirrhosis.

The symptoms of hepatitis depend on the form of the disease. General symptoms of hepatitis include liver enlargement and jaundice, a yellow discolouration of the skin. Common symptoms of acute hepatitis include: fatigue, fever, muscle pain, joint pain, nausea, abdominal pain and a change in colour of the urine, stools, eyes and skin.

How does hepatitis impact my liver?

If the liver is exposed to harmful influences (e.g. a virus, alcohol, hepatotoxic drugs or obesity) for many years, the liver is further damaged by the constant inflammatory reaction, which causes liver fibrosis and may reduce the liver function. The last stage of progressive liver fibrosis is called liver cirrhosis . Regenerative nodules and an altered structure of the liver tissue are characteristics of liver cirrhosis [1-3].

Treatment centres and specialisations

Digestive Centre

Latest publication date: 08/02/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vanderstraeten Erik