Hepatitis is a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver, causing damage to or death of liver cells. There are two types of hepatitis, acute hepatitis, an attack that eventually heals, and chronic hepatitis, which causes ongoing liver problems.

In the early stages of hepatitis, symptoms usually include loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Rashes and pain in the joints can also occur. Within three to ten days, an additional symptom of dark urine may occur, followed by the skin turning yellow (jaundice). In addition, the liver usually becomes enlarged and is tender to the touch. Other symptoms can include mild flu-like symptoms to severe liver failure and brain coma.


The most common cause of hepatitis is a virus that can occur in five potential forms: A, B, C, D, or E. Other causes include excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse (including pharmaceutical drugs, such as acetaminophen), overexposure to chemicals, and, sometimes, as a reaction to properly prescribed medications.

In recent years, hepatitis C has been on the increase. It is most frequently caused as a result of blood transfusions. Typically, people with hepatitis C are identified either because they have abnormal liver tests or because of a hepatitis C antibody test. A positive test does not necessarily mean serious liver disease, however. People with hepatitis C may have no liver disease, a mild form of chronic hepatitis, or a more serious form of hepatitis that may progress over a number of years to cirrhosis. The usual indications are a positive antibody test for the hepatitis C virus, abnormal liver tests for more than six to twelve months, and a liver biopsy that shows chronic active hepatitis. Approximately 20% of patients chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus will go on to develop cirrhosis.

Note: Infectious hepatitis can be easily spread two weeks before and one week after jaundice appears. The feces of people with hepatitis contain the virus. Therefore, very strict toilet hygiene and hand and cloth washing should be observed during this time.