Hepatitis A

Updated on 13 December 2013

Hepatitis A is a virus, or infection, that causes liver disease and inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is an acute infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV) an RNA virus, usually spread by the fecal-oral route; transmitted person-to-person by ingestion of contaminated food or water or through direct contact with an infectious person. The hepatitis A virus is one of several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation that affects your liver’s ability to function.


  • Feeling tired
  • Muscle soreness
  • Upset stomach
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark-yellow urine
  • Light-colored stools
  • Yellowish eyes and skin, called jaundice



  • Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water after using the toilet or changing diapers and before fixing food or eating
  • Use bottled water for drinking, making ice cubes, and washing fruits and vegetables when you are in a developing country
  • Tell your doctor and your dentist if you have hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.


Hepatitis B is spread mainly by exposure to infected blood or body secretions. In infected individuals, the virus can be found in the blood, semen, vaginal discharge, breast milk, and saliva. Hepatitis B is not spread through food, water, or by casual contact.



  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen (due to the inflamed liver).

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. Most people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have no symptoms. In fact, most people don’t know they have the hepatitis C infection until liver damage shows up, decades later, during routine medical tests.

The hepatitis C virus is most commonly transmitted through exposure to infectious blood. This can occur through:

  • Receipt of contaminated blood transfusions, blood products and organ transplants;
  • Injections given with contaminated syringes and needle-stick injuries in health-care settings;
  • Injection drug use;
  • Being born to a hepatitis C-infected mother.

Hepatitis C may be transmitted through sex with an infected person or sharing personal items contaminated with infectious blood, but these are less common. Hepatitis C is not spread through breast milk, food or water or by casual contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing food or drinks with an infected person.

Normal liver

Hepatitis c affected liver


As cirrhosis develops, symptoms increase and may include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Breast enlargement in men
  • A rash on the palms
  • Difficulty with the clotting of blood
  • Spider-like blood vessels on the skin.

In patients with advanced cirrhosis, the liver begins to fail. This is a life-threatening problem. Confusion and even coma(encephalopathy) may result from the inability of the liver to process certain toxic substances.

Increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension) may cause fluid to build up in the abdominal cavity (ascites) and result in engorged veins in theswallowing tube (esophageal varices) that tear easily and can bleed suddenly and massively. Portal hypertension also can cause kidney failure or an enlarged spleenresulting in a decrease of blood cells and the development of (anemia), or the development of low platelets (thrombocytopenia), which can promote bleeding.

In advanced cirrhosis, liver failure causes decreased production of clotting factors. Patients with advanced cirrhosis often develop jaundice because the damaged liver is unable to eliminate a yellow compound, called bilirubin that is formed from the hemoglobin of old red blood cells.