An Overview of Hepatitis

a doctor examines a chart about hepatitis information

Hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C are viral infections that affect the liver. Each of the diseases is transmitted in a unique way.

Determining the type of infection that an individual acquires and formulating treatment options requires blood tests that evaluate liver function and the presence of specific antibodies. Physicians might also perform a simple organ biopsy or imaging study to determine liver damage. While there are immunizations for hepatitis A and B, the instability of the hepatitis C virus prevents researchers from developing a vaccine.

Hepatitis A

Of the varieties of hepatitis, the A version of the infection remains the most common. The infection is transmitted by consuming food or beverages contaminated with infected fecal matter. The disease often spreads quickly through child care centers, in eateries, or other locations where there is evidence of poor hand-washing standards. When traveling internationally, visitors may also contract an infection by eating raw or undercooked shellfish, or from drinking untreated tap water.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus may last a short time or convert into a chronic form of the disorder. Infants and young children are more likely to become infected with chronic hepatitis B, which may lead to permanent liver damage. Hepatitis B is transmitted by coming into contact with the blood or body fluids of infected persons. However, patients do not contract the disease through casual contact.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C may also occur in acute or chronic forms. However, the chronic form is more common. In the chronic form, hepatitis C may lead to permanent organ damage, cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure. The disease is transmitted by coming into contact with the blood of an infected person. People might acquire the infection during unprotected sexual intercourse or if pricked with an infected needle. Pregnant women may also pass the infection to an infant during childbirth.

Hepatitis Symptoms

General symptoms of all hepatitis types can include the following:

  • General fatigue
  • Right-sided abdominal discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Possible abdominal swelling
  • Low-grade fever
  • Aching muscles and joints
  • Jaundice
  • Dark colored urine or light clay-colored stools
  • Headaches
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Appetite loss and subsequent weight loss
  • Itchy skin rash

Symptoms for hepatitis A, B, and C are very similar. Infected persons often spread the disease before experiencing symptoms, which may not appear for two weeks to two months after exposure. Hepatitis A and B typically resolve without treatment. Symptoms for acute forms of hepatitis may last a couple of weeks to six months.


Patients are typically advised to reduce physical activities until strength and energy levels normalize. During the healing process, individuals must adequately hydrate and consume a healthy diet. Use good hand-washing techniques after using the bathroom and avoid unprotected sex. Unaffected family members of infected patients may receive immunization against hepatitis A and B forms of the disease. When patients are diagnosed with a chronic form of the disease, they may receive one or more prescription medications to eradicate the virus. These medications include boceprevir, peginterferon, ribavirin, or telaprevir. If extensive liver damage occurs, patients may require an organ transplant.