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General Practice 2023

Acute hepatitis: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

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Acute hepatitis: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment
Acute hepatitis: what é, symptoms, causes and treatment

Acute hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that can be caused by viruses, mainly, prolonged use of medication, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages and changes in immunity, and that starts suddenly, lasting only a few weeks

Despite the different causes, the symptoms presented in an acute hepatitis are usually similar, including malaise, headache, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, yellow skin and eyes. Generally, this inflammation evolves in a benign way, presenting a cure after a few weeks or months, however, some cases can become serious, and can evolve to death.

Therefore, it is always necessary that, in the presence of symptoms that suggest hepatitis, the person consults the doctor for a clinical evaluation and exams are requested, such as measurement of liver enzymes (ALT and AST) and ultrasound abdominal. Treatment includes rest, hydration and use of medication in specific cases, according to the cause.


Symptoms of acute hepatitis

Although they may vary depending on the cause, the main symptoms of hepatitis are:

  • Tiredness or fatigue;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Fever;
  • Pain in joints and muscles;
  • Disease;
  • Headaches;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting.

A few days after the onset of complaints, in some cases, a yellow coloration of the skin and eyes called jaundice may appear, accompanied or not by itchy skin, dark urine and whitish stools. Subsequently, it is common to follow a period of recovery, with a decrease in signs and symptoms, often progressing to the cure of the disease. In some cases, the inflammatory process of hepatitis can last more than 6 months, turning into chronic hepatitis.

When it can be serious

Although not common, any acute hepatitis can become serious, especially when it is not detected early and when treatment is not started properly. If hepatitis becomes severe, it can compromise the functioning of the liver and bile ducts, which increases the risk of bleeding, interferes with the production of proteins or the functioning of the immune system, which can affect the functioning of other organs in the body.

Furthermore, during the acute phase of hepatitis, there may be acute liver failure, which should be diagnosed early as rapid therapeutic interventions such as liver transplantation may be necessary.

When it can become withering

Acute fulminant hepatitis is also known as acute liver failure, and it appears only in rare cases of hepatitis that progress very intensely and impair the entire metabolism of the body. It is one of the most serious diseases of the liver, which can evolve to death in 70 to 90% of patients, with the risk increasing according to age.

The initial symptoms of fulminant hepatitis are the same as those of common hepatitis, with the addition of dark urine, yellow eyes, sleep disturbances, imprecise voice, mental confusion and slow thinking, with the risk of complications such as multiple organ failure. These complications can lead to death, and it is very important to seek medical help whenever symptoms that indicate this disease appear.

Causes of acute hepatitis

The main causes of acute hepatitis include:

  • Infection with hepatitis A, B, C, D or E virus;
  • Other infections such as adenovirus, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus, herpes, yellow fever;
  • Use of medications, such as certain antibiotics, antidepressants, statins, or anticonvulsants;
  • Use of Paracetamol;
  • Autoimmune diseases, in which the body inappropriately produces antibodies against itself;
  • Alterations in copper and iron metabolism;
  • Circulatory changes;
  • Acute biliary obstruction;
  • Worsening of a chronic hepatitis;
  • Disorders in fat metabolism;
  • Cancer;
  • Toxic agents such as drugs, contact with chemicals or consumption of certain teas.

In addition, there is the so-called transinfectious hepatitis, which is caused by infections that do not happen directly in the liver, but accompany serious generalized infections, such as septicemia.

Watch the following video, the conversation between nutritionist Tatiana Zanin and Dr. Drauzio Varella on how to prevent and treat some types of hepatitis:

How to confirm

To confirm acute hepatitis, in addition to analyzing the clinical picture and symptoms presented by the person, the doctor may request tests capable of detecting liver tissue damage or changes in the functioning of the liver and bile ducts, such as alanine aminotransferase (ALT, formerly known as TGP), aspartate aminotransferase (AST, formerly known as TGO), GT gamma, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubins, albumin and coagulogram.

In addition, imaging tests may be requested to observe the appearance of the liver, such as ultrasound or tomography and, if the diagnosis is not clear, it is even possible to perform a liver biopsy. Discover the tests that evaluate the liver.

Treatment for acute hepatitis

Treatment for acute hepatitis varies according to the cause of the inflammation, and the doctor may recommend rest, increased fluid consumption, suspension of alcohol consumption and a light, balanced, low-fat diet. In the case where acute hepatitis is caused by medication, the doctor may also indicate the suspension of the medication responsible for the inflammation.

In some cases, the doctor may also recommend the use of medication to promote symptom relief, in case the hepatitis is not related to medication, and/or medications that promote the reduction of liver inflammation, such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressants, or that act directly by decreasing virus replication. See how to treat acute hepatitis.

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