Accessibility Tools

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a type of infectious viral disease characterized by inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus that is typically transmitted through eating or drink something contaminated with fecal matter. The disease usually does not cause long-term complications and most patients are able to recover without the need for significant medical intervention.

Causes of Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A infection is caused by the hepatitis A virus. Common ways that hepatitis A virus can spread include:

  • Eating food prepared or handled by a person with hepatitis A who has not washed their hands after using the toilet
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Eating sewage-contaminated raw shellfish
  • Having close contact with a person who is infected
  • Having sex with someone who has the virus

Symptoms of Hepatitis A

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden onset nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever
  • Joint pain
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Intense itching

Diagnosis of Hepatitis A

Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination. Diagnostic tests that may be ordered include:

  • Blood tests: These tests detect the presence of antibodies to the virus in your blood.
  • Liver function test: This test determines the health of your liver; a high liver enzyme count can indicate damaged liver tissue.
  • Abdominal ultrasound: This test uses ultrasound waves to create images of internal abdominal organs.
  • Biopsy: A small piece of liver tissue is extracted and examined for the presence of the disease.

Treatment for Hepatitis A

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A other than to control the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A. The various treatment options include:

  • Rest and maintaining comfort
  • Consuming hygienically prepared food
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration due to nausea or diarrhea
  • Avoidance of unnecessary medications

Prevention of Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A can be prevented by:

  • Vaccination
  • Practicing good hygiene
  • Drinking purified water