Toxic hepatitis is an inflammation of your liver in reaction to certain substances to which you're exposed. Toxic hepatitis can be caused by alcohol, chemicals, drugs or supplements.
In some cases, toxic hepatitis develops within hours or days of exposure to a toxin. In other cases, it may take months of regular use before signs and symptoms of toxic hepatitis appear.
The symptoms of toxic hepatitis often go away when exposure to the toxin stops. But toxic hepatitis can permanently damage your liver, leading to irreversible scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis) and in some cases to liver failure.
The liver is your largest internal organ. About the size of a football, it's located mainly in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above your stomach, but a small ...
Mild forms of toxic hepatitis may not cause any symptoms and may be detected only by blood tests. When signs and symptoms of toxic hepatitis occur, they may include:
When to see a doctor
Get immediate medical care if you think your child has taken an overdose of acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or your child develops signs or symptoms of a possible acetaminophen overdose, such as:
If you suspect an acetaminophen overdose, call 911, your local emergency services or the poison control center at 800-222-1222 immediately. An acetaminophen overdose can be fatal.
Toxic hepatitis occurs when your liver develops inflammation because of exposure to a toxic substance. Toxic hepatitis may also develop when you take too much of a prescription or over-the-counter medication.
Your liver performs hundreds of vital functions, including removing most drugs and chemicals from your bloodstream, and breaking them down so that they can be quickly eliminated from your body. Breaking down toxins creates byproducts that can be highly damaging to the liver. Although the liver has a great capacity for regeneration, constant exposure to toxic substances can cause serious — and sometimes irreversible — harm.
Toxic hepatitis can be caused by:
Factors that may increase the risk of toxic hepatitis include:
The inflammation associated with toxic hepatitis can lead to liver damage and scarring. Over time, this scarring, called cirrhosis, makes it difficult for your liver to do its job. Eventually cirrhosis leads to liver failure. The only treatment for chronic liver failure is to replace your liver with a healthy one from a donor.
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If you're thought to have a liver problem, such as toxic hepatitis, you'll likely be referred to a liver specialist (hepatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For toxic hepatitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests and procedures used to diagnose toxic hepatitis include:
A liver biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of liver tissue for laboratory testing. Liver biopsy is commonly performed by inserting a thin needle through your skin and into your liver. ...
Treatments and drugs
Treatments for toxic hepatitis include:
Because it's not possible to know how you'll react to a particular medication, toxic hepatitis can't always be prevented. But you may reduce your risk of liver problems if you:
Last Updated: 2010-12-17
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