- Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by a group of viruses.
- There are five major types of viral hepatitis: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E.
- Hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the most common types of viral hepatitis found in the United States.
- The are vaccines available that can prevent both hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by a group of viruses—hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. When hepatitis viruses damage liver cells, scar tissue is formed and those cells can no longer function. With fewer healthy liver cells, the body begins to show symptoms ranging from mild (such as fatigue) to more severe symptoms (such as mental confusion).
Although many cases of hepatitis are not a serious threat to health, the disease can sometimes become chronic (long-lasting) and may lead to liver failure and death. In many cases, though, viral hepatitis is a self-resolving illness—meaning it goes away on its own.
Sexual activity poses a different level of risk for each type of viral hepatitis, but is most closely associated with hepatitis B. Blood transfusion, IV needle sharing, and organ transplants may also pose a risk for transmission.
Click on the hepatitis types below to learn more.
- Low-grade fever
- Malaise (feeling of ill-health)
- Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Dark-colored urine
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
There is no cure for hepatitis A. Most people with severe infection will experience short-term illness and then recover completely. They are often told to rest for a few weeks and to avoid intimate contact with others. Once recovered, an individual is immune and will not get hepatitis A again.
Fortunately, complications from hepatitis A are rare, and few deaths result from it. It is not known to cause chronic infections. However, it can make some people very sick, and it is easily preventable through vaccination.