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Hepatitis (sometimes shortened to hep) is an inflammation of the liver. This large organ is on the right side of your body and has many functions, including turning your food into energy and filtering toxins such as alcohol out of your blood.

What causes hepatitis?

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Hepatitis can occur because of:

  • viral infection
  • exposure to alcohol

The three most common viral forms are: 

The other forms of hepatitis – D, E, F and G – are very rare. 

Scientists believe there is more to learn about the causes of hepatitis and more viruses to discover.

Vaccines can help protect you from hepatitis A and B. There is no vaccine against hepatitis C.

What happens if you have hepatitis?

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Hepatitis can be acute or chronic.

Acute hepatitis is short term and begins after the first injection. It can lead to chronic hepatitis, which is long term.

Some types of hepatitis – such as hepatitis A – only cause acute infection.

Chronic hepatitis is long term and can cause lasting damage to the liver. Very serious cases can lead to liver failure or cancer.

Hepatitis and HIV

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Co-infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C is becoming a major cause of illness in people living with HIV. 

Both viruses affect your liver and can make you very ill, and can be fatal. But there are treatments that can work well in people living with HIV.