Difference Between Jaundice and Hepatitis

Main Difference – Jaundice vs  Hepatitis

Jaundice and Hepatitis are two liver conditions which have different etiological factors and presentation, yet sometimes used interchangeably due to some of the common features they share. The liver is a huge organ of about 3 pounds in weight, which lies in the right upper quadrant of our abdomen. It is usually reddish brown in colour and has two main lobes known as left and right. The main function of the liver is to filter and purify blood which is coming from the digestive system, before distributing throughout the organs. It also helps in the process of chemical detoxification, metabolization of drugs, secretion of bile and production of proteins such as clotting factors in our body. The main difference between Jaundice and Hepatitis is that jaundice occurs as a result of an increased bilirubin levels in the blood whereas hepatitis is a result of an invasion of the liver tissue by hepatitis viral entities.

This article explores,

1. What is Jaundice?
     – Cause, Signs and Symptoms, Types, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment

2. What is Hepatitis?
     –  Cause, Signs and Symptoms, Types, Diagnosis, Treatment

3. What is the difference between Jaundice and Hepatitis?Difference Between Jaundice and Hepatitis - Comparison Summary

What is Jaundice

Jaundice is a common medical condition we often come across nowadays in infants, children as well as in adults, which usually manifests as a yellowish discoloration of the skin and sclera of the eye. This condition occurs as a result of increased bilirubin levels in the blood; this increase in bilirubin  level is known as Hyperbilirubinemia.

Bilirubin is a waste product of Hemoglobin degradation and is not soluble in water, making it impossible to get excreted via urine like other waste materials in the body. The liver is the organ which combines Bilirubin with certain other chemicals and converts into a conjugated-water soluble material, which can then be secreted via the bile duct into urine and faeces. This Bilirubin is the substance which gives faeces its characteristic yellow colour.

However, increased degradation of red blood cells by Hemolysis and numerous other pathological conditions in the liver and biliary system can result in increased Bilirubin levels in the blood.

Risk Factors of Jaundice

Risk factors for Jaundice include,

  • Gallstone obstructions
  • Structural abnormalities of the bile duct
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Poor breastfeeding in neonates (breast milk jaundice)

Types of Jaundice

There are 3 major types of jaundice, based on their underlying pathophysiology known as,

  • Hepatocellular jaundice – Due to a liver disease or injury
  • Hemolytic jaundice – Due to raised hemolysis
  • Obstructive jaundice – Due to biliary tract obstruction caused by stones or anatomical abnormalities

Signs and Symptoms of Jaundice

Signs and symptoms mainly depend on the underlying pathology and may include,

– Yellow discoloration of the skin and sclera of the eyes

– Pruritus (itchiness)

– Fatigue A

– Abdominal pain

– If there is blockage of the bile duct, signs like

– loss of weight

– vomiting

– fever

– pale stools and dark urine can be also observed.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Jaundice will be mainly diagnosed by obtaining a complete history from the patient to get an idea of what the cause could be and severity of the underlying condition along with a thorough physical examination to elicit abdominal signs like tenderness and masses.

Furthermore, investigations such as Bilirubin levels, Full blood count (FBC), Hepatitis A, B, and C tests, MRI, Ultrasound scan,  CT scan and Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) are carried out to identify possible etiological conditions giving rise to jaundice. A liver biopsy can find out any if there is possible inflammation, malignancies, cirrhosis, and fatty liver.

Once the underlying cause is established the treatment will be decided accordingly. Hepatitis induced jaundice can be treated with steroids or antiviral drugs, whereas jaundice caused by obstructions or narrowing of the bile duct can be treated by surgical interventions.

Main Difference - Jaundice vs  Hepatitis

Jaundice Eyes

What is Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver which can either be self-limiting or proceeds to fibrosis or scarring, malignancy or liver cirrhosis.

Hepatitis virus is known to be the commonest cause of hepatitis although certain other primary infections, autoimmune diseases, medication, and alcohol can also result in the condition.

Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment of Different Types of Hepatitis

There are 5 main types of hepatitis viruses, identified as A, B, C, D and E. Types B and C have a high risk of causing the chronic liver disease which is the commonest cause for the development of liver cirrhosis and cancer, later in life.

  • Hepatitis A

This is caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water. Patients will experience fever, malaise, loss of appetite, loose stools, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark color urine and jaundice. The diagnosis is usually made by doing an antibody test which will show HAV-specific Immunoglobulin G (IgM) antibodies in the blood. A reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) can also be used to detect the hepatitis A virus RNA, but it requires advanced laboratory techniques.

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A, and the infection will gradually resolve on its own.

People should be made aware of safe water supply, food safety, improved sanitation and proper hand washing techniques in order to prevent this infection.

  • Hepatitis B

This is caused by sexual transmission and blood. Most patients will not show any symptoms during the acute infection, whereas some may experience signs of jaundice – lethargy, fatigue, dark urine, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Some might even end up with acute liver failure, unfortunately resulting in death, if proper treatments are not done on time.

Acute HBV infection is diagnosed by the presence of HBsAg and immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody to the core antigen, HBcAg whereas the chronic type can be diagnosed with a persistent HBsAg level for at least 6 months duration.

Even though there are no specific treatments for acute hepatitis B, an adequate nutritional balance and fluid replacement can improve the condition of the patients. Oral antiviral drugs can be given to patients with chronic hepatitis B infection; this can reduce the progression of cirrhosis, and incidence of liver cancer.   Vaccines against Hepatitis B virus are currently available to prevent related infections.

  • Hepatitis C

This is caused by direct contact with infected blood. Patients usually experience fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, abdominal pain, and signs of jaundice.

Screening for anti-HCV antibodies with a serological test is helpful to identify patients who have been infected previously with this infection whereas a chronic infection can only be diagnosed by a nucleic acid test for HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA). Antiviral medicines are known to be effective in 90% of persons with hepatitis C infection.

  • Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D, known as Super infection, only occurs in patients who have already been infected by Hepatitis B Virus. There is no any effective antiviral treatment, introduced to treat hepatitis D, yet a Hepatitis B vaccine is available with protection against Hepatitis D virus.

  • Hepatitis E

This is caused by through consumption of contaminated water. Symptomatic management can improve the symptoms and signs, which are mostly similar to type A. Adequate hydration is mandatory to prevent dehydration.

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Difference Between Jaundice and Hepatitis

Stages of Liver Disease

Difference Between Jaundice and Hepatitis

Jaundice is a common medical condition we often come across nowadays in infants, children as well as in adults, which usually manifests as a yellowish discoloration of the skin and sclera of the eye.

Hepatitis occurs as a result of an inflammation of the liver which can either be self-limiting or proceeds to fibrosis or scarring, liver cirrhosis or malignancy.

Jaundice occurs as a result of an increased bilirubin levels in the blood.

Hepatitis is a result of an invasion of the liver tissue by hepatitis viral entities.

Signs and symptoms of both Jaundice and Hepatitis can be quite similar depending on the etiology and patients with Hepatitis usually present with Jaundice as a clinical sign.

Jaundice is treated according to the underlying pathology.

Hepatitis is treated depending on the type of virus it has been caused by.

Image Courtesy:

“Jaundice eye” By  CDC/Dr. Thomas F. Sellers/Emory University –  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), #2860 (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

“Stages of Liver disease NIDDK NIH” By NIDDK (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music