What is hepatitis?

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis, from the Greek «hepar» for liver, stands for an inflammation of the liver. Some patients show a yellowish colour of the whites of their eyes or the skin (jaundice). Hepatitis is always the result of damaged liver cells. The causes are numerous: a bruised liver, medicines or drugs, metabolic and autoimmune diseases or pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and parasites.

Whatever the cause, the disease remains the same. What varies are the seriousness and duration of the condition. The most common causes for hepatitis not triggered by pathogens such as viruses are: alcohol misuse, disturbances of lipid metabolism and side effects of medicines.

The information platform hepatitis-switzerland.ch focuses on hepatitis caused by viruses.

The Different Types of Hepatitis

We make a distinction:

High burden of disease

Viral hepatitis are dangerous infectious diseases that can cause liver damage or liver cancer and can lead to death if left untreated. 1.4 million deaths per year are due to infection with hepatitis B or C - more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Together, these viruses cause two out of every three deaths worldwide from liver cancer.

Figure 1: Distribution of hepatitis B and hepatitis C worldwide in millions (Source: WHO)