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Inflammation of the liver is called hepatitis, which is mainly caused by a viral infection. Read the article to know more about hepatitis.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ankur Jindal

Published At January 29, 2019
Reviewed AtAugust 3, 2023


Inflammation of the liver is called hepatitis, which is mainly caused by a viral infection. Sometimes, it can be an autoimmune condition or a result of medications, drugs, alcohol, and toxins. The liver is present on the right side of the abdomen and helps in carrying out crucial functions in the body.

What Are the Functions of the Liver?

The liver helps in:

  • Bile production which is essential for digestion.

  • Filter toxins from the body.

  • Excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, drugs, and hormones.

  • Synthesis of albumin and clotting factors.

  • Glycogen, mineral, and vitamin storage.

  • Activate enzymes that are essential for body function.

  • Breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

What Are the Types of Viral Hepatitis?

There are five types of viral hepatitis which are hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, and it is caused by Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses respectively.

Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver disease caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the Hepatitis A virus.
  • The virus spreads when fecal matter from an infected person contaminates food, even in minimal amounts. It is not transmitted through sneezing or coughing (non-airborne).
  • Sexual intercourse with an infected person can also lead to the spread of hepatitis A.
  • Individuals at risk for hepatitis A infection include those who consume uncooked shellfish contaminated with sewage water, travel to countries with a high incidence of hepatitis A, and have a chronic liver condition.

Treatment and Prevention

  • There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A infection; the body typically clears the virus on its own, and liver damage often heals within six months.
  • Symptomatic treatment may be given to manage nausea and other symptoms.
  • During the infection, it's important to avoid taking medications and alcohol, as they can potentially cause more damage to the liver.
  • Hepatitis A vaccine is available and highly effective in preventing infection. It is administered in two shots, initially and then a second dose after six months.
  • Take precautionary measures like washing and peeling all fruits and vegetables, avoiding raw fish and meat consumption, ensuring proper handwashing before eating, and boiling water before drinking. These steps can help reduce the risk of infection.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is caused when the Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through infected body fluids like blood, vaginal secretions, and semen. It can be transferred from mother to her baby during birth, sharing a razor with an infected person, sharing needles, and having sexual intercourse with an infected person.

Treatment :

For Hepatitis B Infection: If you test positive for Hepatitis B, the doctor will administer a vaccination and an injection of hepatitis B immune globulin.In case symptoms develop, bed rest and staying hydrated are important, while avoiding medications and alcohol that may harm the liver further is advised.If the infection clears, you may become an inactive carrier for life.

For Chronic Hepatitis B :Chronic hepatitis B is when the infection persists for more than 6 months.Medications such as Entecavir, Tenofovir, Lamivudine, Adefovir, and Interferon alfa are prescribed for active chronic hepatitis.

Preventive Measures:

The Hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the infection and is administered in three shots.Those at risk of contracting the virus include homosexual men, individuals with multiple sexual partners, IV drug users, healthcare workers, etc.It's important for people in these high-risk groups to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of Hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that is caused by the Hepatitis C virus. This virus is also spread through blood and body fluids of an infected person. The ways you can get infected are by sharing needles, through sex, at birth from mother to her child, getting a tattoo with contaminated equipment, organ transplant, etc.

Treatment and Prevention

An acute infection of Hepatitis C does not require any treatment apart from rest and hydration. In case of a chronic infection, your doctor might prescribe medicines like Interferon, Ribavirin, Daclatasvir, Sofosbuvir-Velpatasvir, Ledipasvir-Sofosbuvir, Glecaprevir, and Pibrentasvir.As of now, there is no vaccination available for hepatitis C. It is best to prevent this infection by using a condom during sex and avoid sharing needles, razors, and other injectable equipment.

Hepatitis D

The Hepatitis D virus causes hepatitis D or delta hepatitis. But not everyone can get infected by this virus. You can only get infected with this virus if you have already had hepatitis B infection. The infection is highly contagious and can spread through blood and body fluids like vaginal secretions, semen, and urine of an infected person. It can also be transmitted to the baby from the mother at birth.

Treatment and Prevention:

There is no known vaccination available for this infection. But as it only affects people with Hepatitis B infection, Hepatitis B vaccine helps in preventing Hepatitis D indirectly.There is also no cure for this disease. If you have been tested positive for Hepatitis D, your doctor might give you Interferon, which is a type of protein that prevents the virus from spreading. As of now, this disease is not curable, thus avoid sharing razors, toothbrushes, needles, and other personal items.

Hepatitis E

Like hepatitis A, hepatitis E is also transmitted by consuming food contaminated with an infected person’s fecal matter. It is more common in places that have a lack of clean water. You can also get infected by eating uncooked pork or deer meat.

Treatment and Prevention

Most people recover from this illness in 4 to 6 weeks on their own. Just drink a lot of water, eat healthily, rest, and avoid alcohol.

There is no vaccine available. Drink water after boiling it, wash shellfish properly before eating, wash hands properly after using the bathroom, and avoid eating undercooked meat.

What Are Noninfectious Hepatitis?

Autoimmune Hepatitis

The body’s immune system attacks the liver cells causing inflammation of the liver. It is believed to be caused by genetic and environmental factors.

The treatment option is to slow or stop the immune system from attacking the liver cells. This is achieved by taking Prednisone and Azathioprine.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Excessive alcohol consumption might cause short or long term liver damage.

Treatment involves avoiding drinking alcohol. A low-sodium diet should be taken along with vitamins and diuretics. Corticosteroid drugs might be prescribed to reduce liver swelling.

What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?

Symptoms develop only after a few weeks after getting infected, and some people do not develop any signs or symptoms. The usual symptoms are:

  • Tiredness.
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes.
  • Pain on the right side of the abdomen.
  • Gray stools.
  • Fever.
  • Dark urine.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Severe itching.
  • Joint pain.

How Hepatitis Diagnosed?

If you develop hepatitis symptoms, it is best you consult your doctor. The doctor will take a complete history to determine any risk factors for you to develop hepatitis. If he or she suspects hepatitis, you will need to perform the following tests-

  • Liver function test - Liver function test is a blood test that determines how efficiently your liver works. High levels of liver enzymes show that there is something wrong with your liver.

  • Other blood tests - If the liver function test is abnormal, other blood tests are done to determine the cause of liver damage. It usually looks for the antibodies of different hepatitis virus.

  • Ultrasound - Abdominal ultrasound is used to look at your liver and surrounding organs. It will show if there is any fluid in your abdomen, liver enlargement, or liver growth.

  • Liver biopsy - A sample of your liver tissue is taken with a needle through your skin. The liver tissue can show how infected your liver is.

What Are the Complications Following Hepatitis?

  • Long-standing or chronic hepatitis might cause the following complications-

  • Fibrosis - Constant inflammation causes scar tissue formation on the liver which is called fibrosis.

  • Cirrhosis - Excessive fibrosis or liver scarring is known as cirrhosis.

  • Liver cancer - Hepatocellular carcinoma or cholangiolar carcinoma might develop as a result of cirrhosis.

  • Liver failure - The liver functioning is damaged by scar tissue formation and other factors, leading to liver failure.

The recovery time taken for different types of hepatitis is different. Most people recover without any permanent complication. Sometimes, chronic hepatitis causes liver damage beyond repair. In such cases, liver transplantation is done. Talk to your doctor about the medicines and food that might worsen your liver condition. Take rest and drink a lot of fluids.


Hepatitis is a group of liver diseases that can have varying causes, modes of transmission, and treatment approaches. Hepatitis can be broadly categorized into hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, each caused by different viruses. Hepatitis A and E are usually transmitted through contaminated food and water, while hepatitis B, C, and D primarily spread through blood and body fluids.

As research continues to advance, it is hoped that new treatment modalities and prevention strategies will emerge, ultimately leading to a world where hepatitis is no longer a major global health concern. Through ongoing efforts in medical research, public health initiatives, and patient care, we move one step closer to achieving that goal and ensuring a healthier future for all individuals at risk of hepatitis.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Primary Causes of Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused primarily by a viral infection. It could be an autoimmune condition resulting from medications, alcohol, drugs, or toxins. The liver is present on the right side of the abdomen and is responsible for many vital functions in the body.


Can Hepatitis A Be Sexually Transmitted?

Hepatitis A virus transmission can occur through sexual activity with an infected person and is not just limited to fecal-oral contact. Hepatitis A can be transmitted sexually when sexual fluids from partners come into contact with infected feces. Sexually active people are at risk of contracting hepatitis A if they are men who have sex with men (MSM), live with or have sex with an infected individual, or inject drugs.


Can Hepatitis Be Treated?

There is no specific treatment available for hepatitis A, E, or acute Hepatitis C infection. The body will eliminate the virus. Hepatitis B and D infections cannot be cured but can be managed. Several antiviral medications, such as Lamivudine (Epivir), Tenofovir (Viread), Adefovir (Hepsera), Entecavir (Baraclude), and Telbivudine, can aid in the fight against the virus and slow its ability to harm the liver. These medications are taken orally.


How Is Hepatitis Transmitted?

The virus can be found in blood and other bodily fluids. It spreads when an infected person's blood or bodily fluids come into contact with someone who is not immune. It could be an autoimmune condition resulting from medications, drugs, alcohol, or toxins.


How Long Can I Go Without Knowing I Have Hepatitis?

Many people with hepatitis have no symptoms and do not realize they are infected. Symptoms of acute infection can appear anywhere between two weeks and six months after exposure. Chronic viral hepatitis symptoms can emerge decades later.


How Does Hepatitis Pain Feel?

Hepatitis can cause pain in the upper right side of your abdomen, where the liver is located. They appear to resolve with time in the majority of patients. Pains in the upper abdomen can occasionally spread to the rest of the abdomen. This can result in widespread abdominal pain, which can be excruciating. Other symptoms of hepatitis include dark-colored pee, jaundice (yellow skin or eyes), fatigue, nausea, or vomiting.


How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed?

Viral hepatitis, such as hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis C (HCV), is diagnosed through symptoms, physical examination, and blood tests. It is not part of the doctor's routine blood tests, so you must request one specifically for hepatitis. Imaging studies such as a CAT (computed tomography) scan, sonogram, and liver biopsy are sometimes used.


How to Prevent Hepatitis?

There are numerous ways to reduce your chances of contracting hepatitis:
- Get the hepatitis A and B vaccines.
- Use a condom when engaging in sexual intercourse.
- Do not share needles when taking drugs.
- Maintain good personal hygiene by thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water.
- Do not use an infected person's personal items.
- Take extra precautions when getting tattoos or body piercings.
- When visiting areas of the world with poor sanitation, use caution. (Don't forget to get your vaccinations.)
- When traveling, drink bottled water.


How Long Does Hepatitis B Persist?

Hepatitis B symptoms typically last a few weeks but can last up to six months. Chronic hepatitis B infection lasts at least six months. It lingers because the immune system is unable to combat the infection. Chronic hepatitis B infection can last a lifetime and result in serious illnesses like cirrhosis and liver cancer.


Does Hepatitis C Subside?

Acute Hepatitis C infection requires no treatment other than rest and hydration. Your doctor may prescribe Ribavirin, Daclatasvir, Interferon, Sofosbuvir-Ledipasvir-Sofosbuvir, Glecaprevir, Velpatasvir, and Pibrentasvir if you have a chronic infection. Hepatitis C vaccination is not currently available.


Is Hepatitis A Serious?

Hepatitis A infection usually clears up on its own after a few weeks or months. Hepatitis A, unlike hepatitis B and C, does not cause chronic liver disease; however, it can cause debilitating symptoms and, in rare cases, fulminant hepatitis (acute liver failure), which can be fatal. This is more common among the elderly and those with other serious health problems, such as chronic liver disease.
Dr. Ankur Jindal
Dr. Ankur Jindal

Medical Gastroenterology


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