The Liver is an organ that plays an important role in managing the body’s functions including:
- Filters and detoxifies chemicals in what you eat, breathe, and absorb through the skin
- Stores certain vitamins, minerals, sugars, and iron
- Regulates fat stores and controls production and release of cholesterol
- Destroys poisonous substances
- Changes the food you eat into energy, clotting factors, immune factors, hormones, and proteins
- Breaks down drugs and medications
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Inflammation usually produces swelling, tenderness, and sometimes permanent damage. Hepatitis is caused by a number of things including alcohol, drugs, chemicals, and viral infections. If the inflammation of the liver continues at least six months or longer, it is called chronic hepatitis. Currently there are at least five different viruses known to cause viral hepatitis:
Viral Hepatitis A: Sometimes called “Infectious Hepatitis.” It is spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with human feces. This type of viral hepatitis is infrequently life-threatening.
Viral Hepatitis B: Sometimes called "Serum Hepatitis." It is spread from mother to child at birth or soon after, through sexual contact, contaminated blood transfusions and needles. This form of viral hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver.
Viral Hepatitis C: Formerly known as "non-A, non-B Hepatitis." This form of viral hepatitis is the most common. It can be spread through blood transfusions and contaminated needles. However, for a substantial number of patients, the cause is unknown. This form of viral hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver.
Viral Hepatitis D: This form of viral hepatitis is found most often in IV drug users who are carriers of the hepatitis B virus. It is spread only in the presence of the hepatitis B virus and is transmitted in the same way. This type of viral hepatitis occurs in people who have viral hepatitis B, and is a serious health problem.
Viral Hepatitis E: This form of viral hepatitis is similar to viral hepatitis A. It is found most often in people who live in countries with poor sanitation. It is rare in North America, and rarely life-threatening.