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Most often, hepatitis is caused by infection with certain viruses.
However, liver inflammation can also result from exposure to chemicals, over-the-counter or prescription drugs, heavy alcohol use, inherited diseases, autoimmune disease, or fatty buildup in the liver.
The liver is a vital organ located in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen. CDC, National Center for Infectious Diseases [On-line information]. (© 2005) Hepatitis and Liver Disease in the United States.
It performs many functions in the body, including processing the body's nutrients, producing bile to help digest fats, synthesizing many important proteins, regulating blood clotting, and breaking down potentially toxic substances into harmless ones that the body can use or eliminate.
Acute hepatitis is often suspected and testing done because of the appearance of signs and symptoms, such as fever, loss of appetite, and nausea, often accompanied by dark urine, pale stools, and yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice).
The list of prescription drugs that can damage the liver is long and continues to grow.
Among them are certain anesthetics, antibiotic and antifungal medications, anabolic steroids, drugs used to lower cholesterol, chemotherapy drugs, and seizure medications. American Liver Foundation (14 January 2015 updated).
A physical examination may reveal a liver that is tender and enlarged.
In some people, chronic hepatitis can gradually damage the liver and, after many years, cause liver failure.
The CMP and liver panel include several general blood tests that may be used to help evaluate the liver and detect hepatitis.