Hepatitis advice and information
What does hepatitis mean?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The commonest cause is infection with a virus, but inflammation can be caused by drinking too much alcohol, the side effects of some drugs and chemicals, and a liver disease called autoimmune hepatitis, in which the body's immune system malfunctions and attacks the liver.
There are several different viruses that affect the liver, primarily hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. The main difference between the viruses is how they are spread, the way they cause liver damage and the effects they can have on your health.
The liver is your body's 'chemical factory', performing hundreds of complex functions that are vital for life. It is a very uncomplaining organ and has the ability to carry on its many functions with only a small portion actually working.
- produces quick energy when needed.
- stores sugars, vitamins and minerals including iron.
- aids the digestive process by producing bile.
- neutralises certain poisons.
- controls the production of cholesterol.
- maintains hormone balance.
- helps the body resist infection by producing immune factors
- regenerates its own tissue.
How many hepatitis viruses are there?
There are several different hepatitis viruses which affect the liver – the main ones are hepatitis A, B,C, D and E.
The viruses are different from each other in:
- how they are passed from person to person.
- the way they cause liver damage.
- the effects they can have on health.