After the skin, the liver is the body’s second largest organ. It is situated on the right-hand side of the stomach and has around 500 functions, the most important of which is to detoxify the body.
Largely spread by viruses
The word hepatitis is made up of “hepar”, the Greek word for liver, plus the Latin suffix “itis” which means inflammation. Hepatitis therefore means inflammation of the liver. It can heal on its own, or progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or even liver cancer and eventually death.
The condition is most commonly spread by viruses, but can also be caused by other infective agents, as well as toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, drugs) and autoimmune diseases.
There are five main hepatitis viruses, types A, B, C, D and E. The most serious types are A, B and C.
Hepatitis A is mainly spread through food and drink, hepatitis B by means of sexual contact, and hepatitis C through blood (for example when people share drug needles).
Hepatitis B is therefore the only form that is mainly spread through sexual contact.