Hepatitis is a medical condition defined by the inflammation of the liver and characterized by the presence of inflammatory cells in the liver tissue. Hepatitis may occur with limited or no symptoms, but often leads to jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the skin, mucous membrane, and conjunctiva), poor appetite, and malaise. Hepatitis is acute when it lasts less than six months and chronic when it persists longer.
- Acute hepatitis can be self-limiting, can progress to chronic hepatitis, or, rarely, can cause acute liver failure.
- Chronic hepatitis may have no symptoms, or may progress over time to fibrosis (scarring of the liver) and cirrhosis (chronic liver failure). Cirrhosis of the liver increases the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (a form of liver cancer).
Prevalence: Worldwide, viral hepatitis is the most common cause of liver inflammation. Other causes include autoimmune diseases, ingestion of toxic substances (notably alcohol), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, certain medications (such as acetaminophen), some industrial organic solvents, and plants.