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Definition

What is acute hepatitis?

Acute hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. It is popularly caused by a viral infection, but there are other possible causes of hepatitis. These include autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.

How common is acute hepatitis?

Acute hepatitis is quite common. It popularly affects more males than females. It can affect patients at any age.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of acute hepatitis?

Signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear very quickly, include:

  • Fatigue;
  • Nausea;
  • Anorexia;
  • Abdominal discomfort (liver pain);
  • Dark urine and jaundice;
  • Flu-like symptoms;
  • Pale stool;
  • Unexplained weight loss.

There may be low grade fever and transient, indefinite rash during the incubation period.  Itching is typically absent early in the course, but may arise if jaundice is prolonged.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes acute hepatitis?

It is considered that there are 2 chief reasons to cause this disease: non-viral and viral hepatitis:

  • Non-viral hepatitis
  • Alcohol

The alcohol causes the liver to swell and become inflamed. Other toxic causes include overuse of medication or exposure to poisons.

  • Autoimmune Disease

The immune system may mistake the liver as a harmful object and begin to attack it, hindering liver function.

  • Viral hepatitis

The type of virus that is causing your hepatitis will affect how severe your disease is and how long it lasts. There are 5 main types of

  • Hepatitis A.

You usually get it when you eat or drink something that has got the virus in it. It is the least risky type because it almost always gets better on its own. It does not lead to long-term inflammation of your liver.

  • Hepatitis B.

This type spreads in several ways. You can get it from sex with someone who is sick or by sharing a needle when using street drugs. The virus also can pass from a mother to her newborn child at birth or soon afterward.

Most adults with hepatitis B get better, but a small percentage can’t shake the disease and become carriers, which means they can spread it to others even when their own symptoms disappear.

  • Hepatitis C.

You get this type if you have contact with contaminated blood or needles used to inject illegal drugs or draw tattoos.

  • Hepatitis D.

It happens only if you’re already infected with hepatitis B. It tends to make the disease more severe.

  • Hepatitis E

Mainly spreads in Asia, Mexico, India, and Africa. The few cases that show up in the U.S. are usually in people who return from a country where there are outbreaks of the disease.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for acute hepatitis?

  • Exposure to blood or body fluids (eg, intravenous drug use, high–risk sexual intercourse, tattoos, body piercing, blood transfusion, occupational). Transmission via blood transfusion is now rare due to universal screening.
  • Contact with an infected person.
  • Poor hygiene and inadequate sanitation.
  • Underlying liver disease. Patients with underlying liver disease (eg, autoimmune hepatitis, hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease, alpha–1 antitrypsin deficiency) are at increased risk of developing symptomatic hepatitis.
  • Alcohol use, smoking, HIV infection, and fatty liver are risk factors for progression of hepatitis.

Diagnosis &treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is acute hepatitis diagnosed?

To diagnose this condition, your doctor will carry out:

  • Physical Exam

During the physical examination, your doctor will press down gently on your abdomen to see if there is pain or tenderness. Your doctor may also feel to see if your liver is enlarged or not If your skin or eyes are yellow, your skin will be noted during the exam.

  • Liver Biopsy

A liver biopsy is considered an invasive procedure that involves the doctor taking a sample of tissue from your liver. This is a closed procedure. In other words, it can be done through the skin with a needle and doesn’t require surgery. This test allows your doctor to determine if an infection or inflammation is present or if liver damage has occurred.

  • Liver Function Tests

Liver function tests use blood samples to determine how efficiently the liver works. These tests check how the liver clears blood waste, protein, and enzymes. High liver enzyme levels may indicate that the liver is stressed or damaged.

  • Ultrasound

An abdominal ultrasound uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the organs within the abdomen. This test will reveal fluid in the abdomen, an enlarged liver or liver damage.

  • Blood Tests

Blood tests used to detect the presence of hepatitis virus antibodies and antigen in the blood will indicate or confirm which virus is the cause of the hepatitis.

  • Viral Antibody Testing

Further viral antibody testing may be needed to determine if a specific type of the hepatitis virus is present.

How is acute hepatitis treated?

The way that your doctor treat this disease are determined by which type of hepatitis you have

  • Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A isn’t usually treated. Bed rest may be recommended if symptoms cause a great deal of discomfort.

  • Hepatitis B

This form of treatment can be costly because it must be followed for several months or years. Treatment for hepatitis B also requires regular medical evaluations and monitoring to determine if the virus is progressing

  • Hepatitis C

Antiviral medications are used to treat  acute forms of hepatitis C. People who develop hepatitis C are typically treated with a combination of antiviral drug therapies. They may also need further testing to determine the best form of treatment.

  • Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is treated with a medication called alpha interferon

  • Hepatitis E

There are generally no specific medical therapies to treat hepatitis E. Because the infection is often acute, it typically resolves on its own. People with this type of infection are often advised to get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, get enough nutrients, and avoid alcohol.

Lifestyle changes &home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage acute hepatitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this condition:

  • Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene is one key way to avoid contracting hepatitis. If you’re traveling to a developing country, you should avoid:

  • Drinking local water;
  • Ice;
  • Seafood;
  • Raw fruit and vegetables.
  • Hepatitis contracted through contaminated blood can be prevented by:
    • Not sharing drug needles;
    • Not sharing razors;
    • Not using someone else’s toothbrush;
    • Not touching spilled blood.
  • Vaccines

The utilization of vaccines is a second key to preventing hepatitis. Vaccinations are available to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B. Experts are currently developing vaccines against hepatitis C, D, and E.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017