A Project of the New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. Partially funded by the National Library of Medicine
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Fact Sheet Number 506
WHAT IS HEPATITIS?
Hepatitis means an inflammation, or
swelling, of the liver. Viruses can cause
prescription medications), or poisons can
also cause hepatitis. So can opportunistic
infections such as Mycobacterium Avium
Complex (MAC, see fact sheet 514) or
Cytomegalovirus (CMV, see fact sheet
Hepatitis is a very common disease. It
can affect people even if their immune
systems are healthy. Hepatitis can lead to
scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver and liver
failure, which can be fatal.
Many cases of hepatitis aren’t treated
because people think they have the flu.
The most common symptoms are loss of
fever, body aches,
nausea and vomiting, and stomach pain.
In more serious cases, people may have
movements, and a yellowing of the skin or
of the eyes (jaundice).
Your health care provider will check your
blood to see if your liver is working
normally. These “liver function” tests
chemicals: bilirubin, AST, and ALT (or
SGOT and SGPT). High blood levels can
be a sign of hepatitis. See fact sheet 122
for more information on liver function
tests. Blood tests also look for the viruses
that can cause hepatitis. Sometimes, a
sample of the liver is taken with a needle
and tested for signs of infection. This is
called a biopsy.
Scientists know about seven viruses that
can cause hepatitis. They are called
hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F, and G viruses,
or HAV, HBV, and so on. Over 90% of
cases of hepatitis are caused by hepatitis
A, B, or C.
Viral hepatitis can be acute or chronic.
Acute means that you get sick for a
couple of week