Hepatitis A

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If you have noticed lately you feel weak and itch, have a loss of appetite, dark urine, and a low-grade fever, you may be suffering from symptoms of hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A is irritation and swelling of the liver from infection with the hepatitis A virus. The virus is usually found in the stools and blood of an infected person. You can catch hepatitis A if you eat or drink food or water contaminated by feces containing the virus. Fruits, vegetables, shellfish, ice, and water are common culprits. You can also catch the disease if you come into contact with the blood or stool of a person who has hepatitis A, when a person who has the disease and doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom touches other objects or food, or if you have sex that involves oral to anal contact.

Risk factors also include international travel, especially to Asia or South or Central America, IV drug use, living in a nursing home, or working in a health care, food, or sewage industry.

So, what do you do about hepatitis A?

Symptoms will show up about two to six weeks after you are exposed to the virus. As stated, you may well have dark urine, feel weak, have itching, a loss of appetite, a low-grade fever, feel nauseous, and have yellowish skin. The symptoms are usually mild, but they may last for up to several months.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may discover that you have an enlarged, tender liver. Blood tests can confirm you have hepatitis A.

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Your doctor will recommend that you rest when your symptoms are at their worst. You should also avoid alcohol and anything else that is toxic to the liver, such as acetaminophen, or Tylenol. Keep in mind that eating fatty foods may cause you to vomit, because your liver helps process fats from your body.

The good news is the hepatitis A virus does not remain in your body after the infection has gone, but you do need to maintain good bathroom habits to keep from spreading the disease. Typically, you will recover in about three months, but some people do need six months to get better. If you have recently been exposed to hepatitis A and have not had hepatitis A before or have not received the hepatitis A vaccine series, ask your doctor or nurse about receiving either immune globulin or the hepatitis A vaccine.

Hepatitis A

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 2/19/2016
  • Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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