Hepatitis A Symptoms & Treatment
Hepatitis is a group of viruses that causes liver inflammation and damage. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious viral infection that is contracted if you come into contact with food or water that has been contaminated by an infected person’s stool or from close contact with someone who's infected.
Since the hepatitis A vaccine was introduced in 1995, the rate of infections from this virus has declined by 95 percent in the US. It is more common in developing countries with poor sanitation and limited access to clean water.
The good news is that hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver damage because it only lasts for a short time. Most people recover without treatment after a few weeks.
Washing your hands frequently is one of the best ways to protect against hepatitis A.
You are more likely to get hepatitis A if you:
- Eat food made or handled by an infected person who did not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom
- Drink contaminated water or eat food washed in contaminated water
- Live with or care for someone who is infected
- Have sex with someone who has the virus
Not everyone with hepatitis A experiences symptoms. For those who do, symptoms typically begin a few weeks after infection. They may include:
- Dark urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Gray- or clay-colored stools
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever
- Joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
Hepatitis A may last for a few weeks or up to six months.
Based on your symptoms and risk factors (e.g., if you recently traveled to a developing country or you are in close contact with someone who is infected), the doctor will order a blood test to detect the hepatitis A virus in your body.
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. The virus will eventually go away after a few weeks and your liver should heal within six months with no long-term damage. Any treatment is usually associated with managing and improving symptoms, such as drinking plenty of liquids, resting to cope with fatigue, and taking over-the-counter medicine such as Pepto-Bismol to help with nausea.
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