Hepatitis is swelling or inflammation of the liver. Viruses such as the hepatitis viruses A, B, or C cause most cases of hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is the most common liver disease in the world.
I wrote previously about hepatitis A, B and C. Here are some other viruses that can target the liver:
• Hepatitis D – This condition is caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV) and only occurs in people who already have the hepatitis B virus. It is most common in intravenous (IV) drug users. Like hepatitis B, hepatitis D is spread through contact with infected body fluids, such as semen or blood.
Hepatitis D is a serious concern for people with hepatitis B because it makes hepatitis B symptoms worse and can lead to serious and permanent liver damage including scarring (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. There is no vaccine for hepatitis D.
• Hepatitis E – This type of hepatitis is similar to hepatitis A. It is caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). It is found only in countries with poor sanitation and is rarely seen in the United States. Hepatitis E is seldom life threatening. There is no vaccine to prevent HEV.
• Autoimmune hepatitis – This type of hepatitis is an autoimmune disease which means the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. In this case, the immune system targets liver cells, causing inflammation of the liver. This type of hepatitis will continue to get worse if it is not treated and can lead to cirrhosis or scarring on the liver. Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic or long-lasting disease that can cause liver failure leading to death.
Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis typically starts during adolescence or young adulthood. Approximately half of people with type 1 hepatitis also have another autoimmune condition. Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis is less common. It is most often seen in girls between the ages of 2 and 14, although adults can also have it.
Treatment for autoimmune hepatitis usually includes medications to reduce the activity of the immune system.
• Mononucleosis (Mono) – This infection is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. It more often causes inflammation in the spleen, but in some cases it can cause inflammation or hepatitis in the liver. Mono typically goes away on its own after four or more weeks.
• Cytomegalovirus – This viral infection is very common. Many people are infected by it by the time they reach age two and most adults carry the virus by the time they are 40. It generally does not cause significant symptoms, but in rare cases can cause hepatitis or swelling of the liver.
In general, the most common symptoms of hepatitis include:
• Jaundice (yellow tint in the skin and eyes)
• Loss of appetite
• Sore muscles and joints
Early treatment is the best way to control the symptoms of hepatitis and keep liver damage to a minimum. If you think you could have hepatitis or that you might have been exposed to hepatitis, talk to your healthcare provider.
National Institutes of Health: Medline Plus. The Dangers of Hepatitis: What you should know from A to E. Web. September 7, 2011.
Centers for Disease Control. Viral Hepatitis. Web. September 7, 2011.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Autoimmune Hepatitis. Web. September 7, 2011.
FamilyDoctor.org. Hepatitis C. Web. September 7, 2011.
FamilyDoctor.org. Mononucleosis (“Mono”). Web. September 7, 2011.
FamilyDoctor.org. Cytomegalovirus. Web. September 7, 2011.
About.com: Hepatitis. Four Common Hepatitis Symptoms. Charles Daniel. Web. September 7, 2011.
Reviewed September 8, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith