Causative Factors And Background Information
Hepatitis is an extremely common inflammatory disease of the liver. The most frequently associated pathogen, or disease-causing agent, is one or more of a number of viruses, including hepatitis A, B, C, and D. Less common viral agents of hepatitis include those associated with Epstein-Barr syndrome and yellow fever. Occasionally, herpes viruses such as varicella zoster or cytomegalovims are implicated, as are coxsackievirus and measles virus. Bacterial hepatitis can be associated with tuberculosis, syphilis, and other systemic infections. Other pathogens, such as the protozoa that cause malaria and toxoplasmosis and parasites that cause schistosomiasis and ascariasis, can cause liver damage but not true hepatitis.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis vary and may include extreme fatigue, headaches, facial flushing, red and inflamed gums, tenderness in the liver area, diarrhea or loose, watery stools, and yellow coating on the back of the tongue. Hypertension and migraines are also potential symptoms.
Jaundice indicates that the liver is failing to properly break down bilirubin, a bile product. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown pigment that gives blood its characteristic color. If not broken down by the liver, it can accumulate in the tissues, turning the urine dark yellow, even orange. When a person is jaundiced, the whites of the eyes and even the skin are often colored yellow. Because the degraded bilirubin is no longer excreted from the bowels, the stools lose their normal brown look and turn pale to chalk-white-a startling occurrence for many people. I remember feeling shocked by this symptom after contracting hepatitis many years ago.
If you experience any of these symptoms or signs, it is important that you work with a qualified primary health-care provider who can help you diagnose the ailment, define contributing factors, and develop a complete program for liver health. The liver is one of the most important body organs. By consciously caring for our livers, we celebrate life and demonstrate gratitude for the precious gift of health.
< return to intro to next excerpt >