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Hepatitis and liver disease are usually linked. There are generally two forms of hepatitis, acute and chronic, both of which cause inflammation of the liver. Symptoms of acute hepatitis usually clear up in less than six months. Chronic hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver that usually lasts for at least six months, but often much longer. The long-term liver inflammation associated with chronic hepatitis can cause liver disease, including cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Hepatitis is often viral in origin. Hepatitis A, which usually spreads through contact with contaminated stool, most often causes acute hepatitis. This disease usually doesn't cause severe symptoms, and most patients recover within six months.
The viral hepatitis strains most likely to contribute to liver disease are probably hepatitis B and C. Other forms of hepatitis exist, but these generally only affect those already infected with one of the three primary strains of viral hepatitis. The long-term liver inflammation often associated with chronic hepatitis can raise the risk of scarring of the liver, a condition known as cirrhosis. Scarred liver tissue usually can't be regenerated, and this kind of liver damage can't be reversed. Chronic hepatitis can also raise the risk of liver cancer.
Exposure to toxins, or heavy alcohol use, can also cause hepatitis. The term hepatitis doesn't always refer to a specific infectious disease of the liver, but to inflammation of the liver that can lead to liver disease. Hepatitis and liver disease can occur as a result of alcoholism, or exposure to toxins. Certain fungal poisons have been known to contribute to hepatitis and liver disease. Inherited conditions such as Wilson's disease can contribute to hepatitis and liver disease, as can autoimmune reactions that can occur in some individuals. Use of certain medications, especially painkillers or antibiotic drugs, can contribute to hepatitis and liver disease, or worsen hepatitis in those already suffering from it.
While there may be strong link between hepatitis and liver disease, hepatitis does not always lead to liver disease. Acute hepatitis usually resolves without contributing to liver disease. Hepatitis caused by alcoholism or other toxic exposure generally improves when the liver is no longer exposed to those toxins. Liver disease is generally not diagnosed until the liver begins to be scarred by cirrhosis.