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Hepatitis can be acute, flaring up and then resolving within a few weeks to months, or chronic, enduring over many years.
Chronic hepatitis may persist for 20 years or more before causing significant symptoms related to progressive liver damage, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer, and can cause death.
When present, signs and symptoms often correspond to those of hepatitis in general.
See the section on Signs and Symptoms for detailed information.
Some people may experience additional signs and symptoms, such as loss of appetite, dark-colored urine, or light-colored stools.
More serious complications can involve accumulation of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) and mental confusion. Sources Used in Previous Reviews Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997).
The liver processes many substances for the body to use and/or eliminate. The byproducts of this process can be toxic to the liver and may cause hepatitis. In other cases, hepatitis occurs with a drug that is not directly toxic to the liver but the body recognizes the drug as foreign and attacks it, causing hepatitis. Signs and symptoms of toxic and drug-induced hepatitis vary depending on the cause. National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference (26 April 2016 published). Available online at https://nih.gov/condition/alpha-1-antitrypsin-deficiency. They may appear suddenly or develop gradually with prolonged exposure to a drug or other toxin.