Hepatitis is a series of diseases caused by different viruses that lead to inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A is caused by contact with infected fecal matter, through food, drink, or sexual contact. Those infected typically recover on their own within a couple of months. However, severe infections may lead to death.
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Many illnesses and conditions can cause inflammation of the liver, for example, drugs, alcohol, chemicals, and autoimmune diseases. Many viruses, for example, the virus causing mononucleosis and the cytomegalovirus, can inflame the liver. Most viruses, however, do not attack primarily the liver; the liver is just one of several organs that the viruses affect. When most doctors speak of viral hepatitis, they are using the definition that means hepatitis caused by a few specific viruses that primarily attack the liver and are responsible for about half of all human hepatitis. There are several hepatitis viruses; they have been named types A, B, C, D, E, F (not confirmed), and G. As our knowledge of hepatitis viruses grows, it is likely that this alphabetical list will become longer. The most common hepatitis viruses are types A, B, and C. Reference to the hepatitis viruses often occurs in an abbreviated form (for example, HAV, HBV, HCV represent hepatitis viruses A, B, and C, respectively.) The focus of this article is on these viruses that cause the majority of human viral hepatitis. We are sure that you would like to know types of hepatitis and symptoms that are curable.
Hepatitis viruses replicate (multiply) primarily in the liver cells. This can cause the liver to be unable to perform its functions. The following is a list of major functions of the liver:
- The liver helps purify the blood by changing harmful chemicals into harmless ones. The source of these chemicals can be external, such as medications or alcohol, or internal, such as ammonia or bilirubin. Typically, these harmful chemicals are broken down into smaller chemicals or attached to other chemicals that then are eliminated from the body in the urine or stool.
- The liver produces many important substances, especially proteins that are necessary for good health. For example, it produces albumin, the protein building block of the body, as well as the proteins that cause blood to clot properly.
- The liver stores many sugars, fats and vitamins until they are needed elsewhere in the body.
- The liver builds smaller chemicals into larger, more complicated chemicals that are needed elsewhere in the body. Examples of this type of function are the manufacture of a fat, cholesterol, and the protein bilirubin.
When the liver is inflamed, it does not perform these functions well, which brings about many of the symptoms, signs, and problems associated with any type of hepatitis. Each hepatitis viral type (A-F) has both articles and books describing the details of infection with that specific virus. This article is designed to give the reader an overview of the predominant viruses that cause viral hepatitis, their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments, and should help the reader choose the subject(s) for more in depth information.