What is liver inflammation?

Liver inflammation is a reaction that occurs when liver cells are attacked by a disease-causing microbe or substance. The liver is an organ in the digestive system that assists the digestive process and carries out many other essential functions. These functions include producing bile to help break down food into energy; creating essential substances, such as hormones; cleaning toxins from the blood, including those from medication, alcohol and drugs; and controlling fat storage and cholesterol production and release.

The word hepatitis refers to liver inflammation. Most forms of hepatitis result from viral infection, although in some cases it is caused by an autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system attacks liver cells because it cannot tell the difference between harmful invaders and healthy liver tissue. Damage to the liver from alcohol, toxins, and certain drugs can also result in inflammation. Some inherited diseases can cause inflammation and hepatitis, along with prolonged obstruction of bile flow. Some forms of liver inflammation produce mild symptoms, while others can be serious or life threatening.

Several types of viral hepatitis are known, the most common of which are designated as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Depending on the type, viral hepatitis can be spread through food or water contaminated by feces from an infected person; contact with infected blood through infected needles or contaminated blood transfusions; through sexual contact with an infected person; or passed from mother to child during childbirth.

The severity, treatment and outcome of liver inflammation depend largely on the type of hepatitis you have. The initial symptoms of inflammation are similar to flu, but with the addition of jaundice, a yellowish discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes. Left untreated, liver inflammation will begin to interfere with liver function and may progress to end-stage liver disease and liver failure. The liver damage caused by any inflammation is worsened by drinking alcohol. Fortunately, vaccines have been developed to protect against hepatitis A and B, two common causes of liver inflammation.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms associated with complications of liver inflammation, such as confusion, hallucinations, extreme fatigue, fainting, fever (especially if combined with a swollen abdomen), vomiting blood, or severe mood changes (especially agitation).

Seek prompt medical care if you experience any of the following symptoms, including yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice); abdominal pain; nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; constant weakness or dizziness; difficulty thinking or understanding; and low-grade fever. Also seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for hepatitis but your symptoms persist or recur.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of liver inflammation?

Symptoms of liver inflammation can involve a variety of body systems, with effects ranging from decreased energy level to skin irritation to abdominal and gastrointestinal symptoms. You should contact your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms, and seek immediate attention for symptoms associated with more serious forms of the disease.

Common symptoms of liver... Read more about liver inflammationsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes liver inflammation?

Liver inflammation has various causes, depending on the type. Viral infections are a common cause, along with toxic exposures and some inherited conditions.

Causes of liver inflammation

Liver inflammation may be caused by the following:

TREATMENTS

How is liver inflammation treated?

Treatment of hepatitis varies depending on the type of hepatitis. If you are diagnosed with any type of hepatitis, you should stop drinking alcohol and discontinue use of drugs that may damage the liver, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), and drugs that increase your risk of bleeding, such as aspirin.

Beyond that, some types of hepatitis are treated only with general supportive meas... Read more about liver inflammationtreatments

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 5, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System


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