Toxic Hepatitis

What is Toxic Hepatitis?

Toxic hepatitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the liver and is the result of a reaction to specific substances. Some of the substances that can result is toxic hepatitis include drugs, chemicals, nutritional supplements or alcohol.

It can develop as quickly as a few days after you have been exposed to the toxin. For other people it can take months of regular exposure before signs appear. The symptoms of toxic hepatitis sometimes will go away when you cease to be exposed to the toxin. If it is not treated it can result in permanent liver damage and scarring and even failure.

What are the Symptoms of Toxic Hepatitis?

There may not be any symptoms if you have a mild form of toxic hepatitis.

If you do have symptoms they can include itching, fatigue, jaundice, rash, dark urine, weight loss, vomiting or nausea, and pain in the upper right portion of the abdomen.

Toxic Hepatitis Causes

Chemicals which are inhaled or consumed are the primary known cause of toxic hepatitis in the human liver. Some of these, such as alcohol, may be intentionally consumed. Alcohol has been shown to bring about toxic hepatitis in people who are not able to properly control and limit their consumption.

The inhalation or consumption of these chemicals may sometimes be unintentional manner, such as with industrial solvents or pollutants. For example, those tasked with cleaning up an area in a factory may receive harmful exposure if not careful.

Toxins are divided into two subgroups: predictable and unpredictable. Those toxins in the predictable group are known to cause liver damage and this includes things like acetaminophen, carbon tetrachloride and myriad other cleaning solvents. The outcome of exposure to those in the other unpredictable group is less certain, and recent data and analysis shows that it may depend on an inheritable enzyme which is used to metabolize that chemical.

How is a Toxic Hepatitis Treated?

Treatment for toxic hepatitis varies depending on how severe it is. The first treatment that is usually suggested is ceasing exposure to the toxin that is causing it. Doctors can help you figure out what is behind it and sometimes staying away from it can result in symptoms going away. If toxic hepatitis is caused by acetaminophen, a chemical called acetylcysteine can help. It will be most affected if it is administered within 16 hours.

More severe cases of toxic hepatitis can require a stay in the hospital to administer medications and intravenous fluids. If the liver is very impaired, a liver transplant is the last option. Livers can come from a deceased donor or from a live donor that gives a portion of their own liver.

Toxic Hepatitis Prevention

The only certain method of prevention for toxic hepatitis and the damage which the liver incurs when this problem is encountered is to avoid the exposure to the chemicals which can be harmful.

This prevention includes using things like industrial respirators and masks which are specifically designed to meet standards and to help the wearer to stay safe, even in the midst of harmful vapors and such. They are lightweight and can provide comfortable protection with a number of well-known manufacturers such as 3M and Uline providing their versions to the market.

Recreational drugs should – as always – be limited if not eliminated altogether since the harmful effects of things like alcohol on the liver can be irreversible and life-threatening.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
April 13, 2019
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