Hepatitis - Medical Malpractice LawyersLEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
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Hepatitis - Medical Malpractice
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver due to viral infection, other infections, chemicals, autoimmune diseases or medications. The liver normally functions in getting rid of toxins in the body and in creating clotting factors. The liver is an important organ to the body and without its normal functioning, we get very sick and die.
The causes of hepatitis include having immune cells in the body attack the liver (autoimmune hepatitis), viral infections (hepatitis A, B and C, among others), bacterial infections, parasitic infections, poisons, alcohol, certain mushrooms and medications like acetaminophen.
Certain hereditary diseases can result in liver damage and hepatitis, such as cystic fibrosis and hemochromatosis. These are relatively uncommon, however. Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease in which too much iron is deposited in the liver. Wilson's disease is another hereditary liver disease that can result in liver damage and hepatitis.
Symptoms of hepatitis can be acute and come on suddenly or chronic and come on gradually. Acute hepatitis usually lasts a few weeks or months and then spontaneously recovers itself. Chronic hepatitis comes on gradually and does not go away at all or takes a long time to go away.
Alcoholic hepatitis is liver damage from alcohol abuse on a chronic basis. It occurs after drinking alcohol for years. The longer the use of alcohol and the amount of alcohol used, the greater is the risk of developing hepatitis. The alcohol causes a fatty liver that results in scar tissue formation and cirrhosis. Alcoholic hepatitis is sometimes hereditary. It doesn't occur in all drinkers and does not result from chronic drunkenness. Women seem to be more susceptible to hepatitis than men.
Hepatitis from viruses is usually due to hepatitis A, B or C. Hepatitis A comes from tainted food that has been handled by someone who is infected and who does not do proper hand washing after having a bowel movement. It infects a person about 15 to 45 days after getting exposed to the virus. It lasts for several weeks and resolves spontaneously. You can only get hepatitis A once. Risk factors include IV drug abuse, international travel, living in a nursing home or working in healthcare or in the food service industry or sewage industry. Hepatitis B and C are the result of direct blood or body fluid contact with an infected individual. It is common in those who are IV drug users or who have sex with multiple partners. It can happen in those who are healthcare workers as well. It can last for several weeks or months, or can become chronic and active, able to give the virus to anyone for the rest of their lives.
Symptoms of hepatitis are about the same regardless of the cause of the hepatitis. There is malaise, fever, abdominal pain or abdominal distension, breast development in men, dark urine, clay-coloured stools, tiredness, itching of the body, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and jaundice, which is yellowing of the eyes or skin. You can have unexplained weight loss as well.
Doctors diagnose hepatitis through a complete history and physical examination. There is an enlarged liver that is tender to the touch, fluid or "ascites" in the abdomen can occur from back up of fluid from the liver. They can note the jaundice and do blood tests such as a Hepatitis A antigen, hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis C antibody testing. An abdominal ultrasound can show an inflamed and enlarged liver and blood tests of liver enzymes can show markedly high levels of AST and ALT, the most common liver enzymes detected in the blood. The bilirubin can also be elevated. The doctor can do a paracentesis of the fluid in the abdomen to see what is present in the fluid.
The treatment of hepatitis is usually watchful waiting. The hepatitis usually gets better on its own or becomes chronic. Supportive measures for itching, nausea and vomiting can be undertaken to make the person feel better. While the person is contagious, he or she should refrain from cooking foods or having sex with those who are uninfected.LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here