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Viral Hepatitis - Types, Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Published on Mar 21, 2022   -  7 min read


Viral hepatitis is the infection and inflammation of the liver caused by viruses that can lead to liver damage. Read the article below to know more about viral hepatitis.


What Is Viral Hepatitis?

The term hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. When the cause of this liver inflammation remains to be a viral infection, it is known as viral hepatitis. In viral hepatitis, the liver becomes swollen and painful as a response to the infection. Liver damage also occurs. Five viruses are known to cause viral hepatitis, and this condition is contagious, meaning it spreads from one person to another. The viruses that cause this infection are known as hepatic viruses. As of now, only five to seven viruses causing hepatitis have been identified, but there are several unidentified viruses causing hepatitis, which will sooner or later be discovered.

What Are the Types of Viral Hepatitis?

Based on the duration of symptoms, two types of viral hepatitis exist,

Based on the types of hepatic viruses causing the disease, five types of viral hepatitis exist. They are,

Hepatitis A -

Hepatitis B -

Though hepatitis B infection is usually acute, it can become chronic too. The ways through which hepatitis B spreads are;

Thankfully vaccines are available to protect and prevent oneself from contracting the infection.

Hepatitis C -

The ways through which hepatitis A spreads are,

Around 85 % of the hepatitis C-infected individuals develop chronic viral hepatitis over time. And most people living with hepatitis remain unaware of their infection and unwittingly transmit hepatitis to others. No vaccines are available to date for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis D -

Hepatitis E -

What Symptoms Does Viral Hepatitis Cause?

People with viral hepatitis experience similar symptoms regardless of the type of hepatic virus causing it. Most times, viral hepatitis does not cause any symptoms or causes mild symptoms. When present, they include,

When chronic hepatitis sets in, the following symptoms can occur;

What Is the Incubation Period of Viral Hepatitis?

The incubation period is the time between initial exposure to the virus (or any microorganism) and the development of symptoms or onset of illness. The incubation period of the different types of viral hepatitis are tabulated below:

Who Is at Risk for Viral Hepatitis?

How Is the Diagnosis of Viral Hepatitis Made?

In acute hepatitis patients, diagnosis is promptly made based on their presenting symptoms, as mentioned earlier. In the case of chronic hepatitis patients, diagnosis becomes tricky due to the absence of symptoms or the presence of mild non-specific symptoms. The following investigations are suggested for establishing a diagnosis.

Blood Tests -

What Complications Does Viral Hepatitis Cause?

Viral hepatitis in its acute form does not cause any serious complications. But when the infection resides for a long time, more than six months (as in the case of hepatitis B and C), it becomes chronic, which can later worsen to cause complications such as,

How Can Viral Hepatitis Be Treated?

Acute Viral Hepatitis -

Chronic Viral Hepatitis -

There is no cure for hepatitis A. Other types of chronic hepatitis are treated with antiviral medications and interferons.

How Can Viral Hepatitis Be Prevented?

  1. Avoid sharing needles for intravenous drug injections.

  2. Avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, and infected person’s items.

  3. Make sure the needle is changed before getting tattoos.

  4. Drink bottled water if you are traveling.

  5. Use physical contraceptives like condoms during sex.

  6. More importantly, get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. Vaccines for hepatitis A and B are available. Hepatitis B vaccine can also protect against hepatitis D. But hepatitis C does not have a vaccine till date.

What Vaccines Are Approved for Viral Hepatitis?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following vaccines;


All people with an increased risk of hepatitis are advised to get hepatitis vaccines. Most people recover from acute hepatitis with supportive care. Those with chronic hepatitis need to take medications with a doctor's prescription for a period of six months and should get their liver condition assessed regularly to prevent complications.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Causes Viral Hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis is caused by hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV).


What Is the Most Effective Drug Used in Treating Viral Hepatitis?

The most effective combination drug used in treating viral hepatitis is Pegylated interferon and Ribavirin.


How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Hepatitis Infection?

Without any treatments and medications, a person might recover in four to eight weeks. In some people, hepatitis might become a chronic infection.


What Are the Stages of Hepatitis Infection?

There are four stages in hepatitis infection,

- Incubation or preclinical stage.

- Prodromal or preicteric stage.

- Icteric stage.

- Stage of recovery.


Can Hepatitis Infection Be Cured?

Unfortunately no, viral hepatitis cannot be cured entirely. However, appropriate treatments can manage the symptoms.


How to Take Care of Hepatitis at Home?

Hepatitis can spread from person to person through sexual intercourse. It can also spread through protected sexual intercourse.

- Stay isolated to avoid spreading to others.

- Eat a clean and balanced diet.

- Stay hydrated.

- Avoid alcohol.

- Stay away from smoking and other substance abuse.

- Get enough rest.


How Does Hepatitis Infection Spread?

Hepatitis infection spreads from person to person through the fecal-oral route. When a healthy uninfected person ingests contaminated food that is contaminated with the fecal matter of an infected person, they can contract the infection. Also, hepatitis can spread through unprotected and protected sexual intercourse.


What Is the Common Serious Complication Associated With Viral Hepatitis?

Chronic hepatitis can lead to liver scarring and cirrhosis of the liver. This can lead to impairment of liver functions which is a severe life-threatening complication.


Which Type of Hepatitis Is Caused Due to Sexual Transmission?

Hepatitis B can be transmitted sexually from person to person. This can be seen commonly in people with multiple sexual partners.

Last reviewed at:
21 Mar 2022  -  7 min read




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