The liver is a vital organ located in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen.. The liver is an extremely important organ and it processes the body's nutrients, manufactures bile to help digest fats, synthesizes many important proteins, regulates blood clotting, and breaks down toxins that the body can use or excrete.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a general term that refers to inflammation of the liver, resulting in liver cell damage and destruction. Inflammation usually produces swelling, tenderness and sometimes permanent damage. Inflammation of the liver may (in severe cases) interfere with the normal processes of the liver and permit toxins to accumulate.
Types of hepatitis
Any irritation of the liver that makes it inflamed, is called hepatitis. Some of the diseases that hepatitis causes are chronic, some come and go like a very bad case of the flu, and some are deadly. In general, hepatitis is categorized in two groups, either acute or chronic. Furthermore, the type of hepatitis is named for the virus that causes it. Six main types of the hepatitis virus have been identified.
1. Acute hepatitis - Lasts less than six months; acute hepatitis is the initial infection and may be mild or severe.
2. Chronic hepatitis - Persists for longer than six months; chronic hepatitis can lead to scarring, called fibrosis. If a lot of scarring develops, cirrhosis can occur, which can lead to liver failure.
Hepatitis A - This type of Hepatitis is usually spread by fecal-oral contact, or fecal-infected food and water, and may also be spread by blood-borne infection (which is rare) or sexual contact.
Hepatitis B - Transmission of Hepatitis B virus occurs through blood and body fluid exposure. Infants may also develop the disease if they are born to a mother who has the virus.
Hepatitis C - Hepatitis C is the leading indication for liver transplant. Transmission of Hepatitis C occurs primarily from contact with infected blood, but can also occur from sexual contact or from an infected mother to her baby. With some cases of Hepatitis C, no mode of transmission can be identified. In addition, people with alcoholic liver disease also tend to develop Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis D - This form of Hepatitis can only occur in the presence of Hepatitis B.
Hepatitis E - This form of Hepatitis is similar to but less common than Hepatitis A and transmission occurs through fecal-oral contamination. Hepatitis E is most common in poorly developed countries.
Hepatitis G - This is the newest strain of Hepatitis and very little is known about it.
Hepatitis is a serious and potentially fatal illness. But what causes liver inflammation? And who is at risk of developing hepatitis? Continue reading the next section on risk factors and what causes hepatitis to learn more.