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Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver, has many well documented causes. Risk factors include excessive alcohol consumption (alcoholic hepatitis), intravenous drug use (hepatitis B, C or G), feces-contaminated food or water (hepatitis A) and blood transfusions prior to the early 1990s (hepatitis A through G). Hepatitis symptoms can vary.

Mothers can pass hepatitis B on to their children. Autoimmune hepatitis, most prevalent in women, is common to individuals with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, AIDS and inflammatory bowel disease.

Alcoholic hepatitis affects up to 35% of heavy drinkers. Damage caused by alcoholic hepatitis is reversible, but is likely to result in cirrhosis of the liver and ultimately liver failure in people who continue to drink. For these people, hepatitis may ultimately prove to be fatal. Obesity has been strongly linked to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, also known as NASH. NASH resembles alcoholic hepatitis except that it appears in the liver of light- or non-drinkers. NASH is thought to affect up to 5% of the population. NASH is usually identified by the existence of fat in the liver.

Hepatitis D is a rarity in that it is only found in individuals who already have Hepatitis B. This particular hepatitis is relatively uncommon on the United States. Hepatitis can develop if a person contracts any of a number of diseases that cause liver inflammation. These diseases include, but are certainly not limited to, measles and mononucleosis, metabolic ailments like Wilson’s Disease and haemochromatosis, hemophilia and leukemia. Numerous drugs have been shown to cause an onset of hepatitis. These include halothane (an anesthetic), Methyldopa (blood pressure medication), statins (cholesterol lowering drugs like Lipitor and Zocor), oral contraceptives and even high doses acetaminophen.

Some herbal supplements, including kava-kava, have been linked to hepatitis. Antiretrovirals (AIDS medications) like Zidovudine can also be a risk factor for hepatitis. As you can see, the causes of hepatitis are numerous and varied. There are few other diseases with as many disparate causes. There are also few other diseases that are sometimes treatable and sometimes not. All forms of hepatitis directly affect the liver to varying degrees. Currently 6 forms of hepatitis are known today…A, B, C, D, E and G. Each is distinct, even though many involve the same risk factors, and each except for type A can result in chronic symptoms which may ultimately lead to liver failure and death.


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