Hepatitis (plural hepatitides) is an inflammation of the liver characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells in the tissue of the organ. The name is from the Greek hepar (ἧπαρ), the root being hepat- (ἡπατ-), meaning liver, and suffix -itis, meaning "inflammation" (c. 1727). The condition can be self-limiting (healing on its own) or can progress to fibrosis (scarring) and cirrhosis.
Hepatitis may occur with limited or no symptoms, but often leads to jaundice, anorexia (poor appetite) and malaise. Hepatitis is acute when it lasts less than six months and chronic when it persists longer. A group of viruses known as the hepatitis viruses cause most cases of hepatitis worldwide, but it can also be due to toxins (notably alcohol, certain medications and plants), other infections and autoimmune diseases.
Signs and symptoms
Initial features are of nonspecific flu-like symptoms, common to almost all acute viral infections and may include malaise, muscle and joint aches, fever, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and headache. More specific symptoms, which can be present in acute hepatitis from any cause, are: profound loss of appetite, aversion to smoking among smokers, dark urine, yellowing of the eyes and skin (i.e., jaundice) and abdominal discomfort. Physical findings are usually minimal, apart from jaundice in a third and tender hepatomegaly (swelling of the liver) in about 10%. Some exhibit lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes, in 5%) or splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen, in 5%).
Full article ▸