July 2022

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Health Capsule

What Causes Hepatitis?

Hepatitis has been in the news a lot lately. New cases have been showing up in children around the world. Doctors aren’t sure why. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. Inflammation is the body’s protective response to injury or infection. What causes hepatitis isn’t always known.

Viruses are the most common culprit. There are five known viruses that cause the condition: hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A and E are usually spread through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C, and D are contracted through exposure to infected blood and possibly other body fluids.

Other viruses may also cause symptoms of hepatitis. Usually, your body can fight off these types of infections. But sometimes, they become chronic, or long lasting.

Other causes of hepatitis include heavy alcohol use, toxins, certain medications, and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases happen when the body’s protective response to illness or disease goes awry. This can cause your body to attack your own cells and organs, like the liver.

Chronic hepatitis can have serious complications. It can damage your liver and lead to liver failure. It can also cause liver cancer.

Learn more about viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, and NIH’s research on hepatitis.