Hepatitis Facts All Men Should Know

What Is Viral Hepatitis?

Technician drawing blood with syringe from blood bag, Close-up of hands
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Hepatitis literally means inflammation (itis) of the liver (hepar), which is characterized by irritation or swelling of the liver cells. There are many forms of hepatitis, including viral hepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, fatty liver hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, and toxin-induced hepatitis.

Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis, and the hepatitis group of diseases is incredibly common.

The five main types of viral hepatitis are known simply as hepatitis type A, B, C, D, and E. 

Viral hepatitis is an enormous health issue. An estimated 250 million people worldwide are affected by hepatitis C, and about 400 million are chronic carriers of hepatitis B. Together, viral hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis. 

For more information on the different types of viral hepatitis, be sure to read Viral Hepatitis and the Five Viruses that Cause It.

The 3 Stages of Hepatitis

There are three stages of hepatitis: the acute stage, the chronic stage, and, for a few very unlucky people, a fulminant stage of hepatitis. Acute-stage hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver that lasts less than six months. Chronic-stage hepatitis is hepatitis that continues beyond six months. Last, but not least, fulminant-stage hepatitis is the potentially fatal, most severe form of acute hepatitis.

Fulminant-stage hepatitis is generally characterized by the development of hepatic encephalopathy, which is a severe reaction in the brain to toxic substances. Hepatic encephalopathy is most commonly associated with coma and seizures -- which helps explain why fulminant-stage hepatitis can lead to death.

Brief History of Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis is believed to have been around in some form since ancient times when a disease existed that affected the liver and caused yellowing of the skin. In 1963, a major breakthrough identified serum hepatitis and its viral cause, which was named the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Ten years later, the cause of infectious hepatitis was found and named the hepatitis A virus (HAV).

Although scientists knew that other hepatitis viruses existed, it was not until 1989 that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) was isolated. Although the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) was known about from the mid-1970s, it was only in the late 1980s that it was understood to exist only in the presence of hepatitis B.

The hepatitis E virus (HEV) was finally identified in 1990.

Other Hepatitis Viruses. Hepatitis G virus (HGV) was discovered in 1995. Other hepatitis viruses are thought to exist, including hepatitis F virus (HFV), but as yet their existence is unproven.

History of the Stigma of Hepatitis

There's long been a stigma attached to certain types of hepatitis. This is especially true of viral hepatitis, which has the potential to infect others. The history of the stigma surrounding viral hepatitis can be traced back to a lack of understanding of the disease, particularly of how it's transferred.

In reality, when people who have hepatitis are aware that they're potentially infectious, they need take only a few simple precautions to avoid passing it to others.

For Further Reading

How Hepatitis Is Transmitted

An Overview of Hepatitis Symptoms

What Is Hepatitis C Infection?


Palmer, Mellisa. Hepatitis Liver Disease. What you need to know. New York: Avery Publishing Group, 2000.

CDC Center for Disease Control

WHO World Health Organization

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