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:
- 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:
- Practicing good hygiene
- Drinking purified water