Hepatitis, acute

Short-term inflammation of the liver, which usually recovers in 1–2 months. In some cases, acute hepatitis may progress to chronic hepatitis (see hepatitis, chronic), but it rarely leads to acute liver failure. Acute hepatitis is fairly common. The most frequent cause is infection with one of the hepatitis viruses (see hepatitis, viral), but it can arise as a result of other infections such as cytomegalovirus infection or Legionnaires’ disease. It may also occur as a result of overdose of halothane or paracetamol or exposure to toxic chemicals including alcohol (see liver disease, alcoholic). Symptoms range from few and mild to severe with pain, fever, and jaundice. Blood tests, including liver function tests, may be used for diagnosis. In most cases of acute viral hepatitis, natural recovery occurs within a few weeks. If the disorder is caused by exposure to a chemical or drug, detoxification using an antidote may be possible. Intensive care may be required if the liver is badly damaged. Rarely, a liver transplant is the only way of saving life. In all cases, alcohol should be avoided.


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