Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis A, B, and C are viruses that affects the liver. Although other viruses can involve the liver, viral hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver due to one of several viruses that specifically attack the liver. These viruses are labeled with the letters A, B, C, D, and E. The most important viruses in the United States are viral hepatitis A, B and C.

Hepatitis A typically causes a self-limited acute (short term) illness with symptoms of abdominal pain, jaundice, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. This virus usually clears on its own, but can rarely cause liver failure. Hepatitis A does not cause chronic (long term) liver disease. It is typically spread by food poisoning.

Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause acute or chronic hepatitis. It usually clears on its own, but can sometimes cause chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation needs to be monitored for liver inflammation and risk of liver cancer. It is typically spread by blood exposure, IV drug use, or sex.

Hepatitis C usually produces chronic hepatitis. It usually has no symptoms during the early stages; so many people will not be diagnosed until years later when liver damage shows up. It also is typically spread by blood exposure, IV drug use, or sex.


Symptoms of chronic hepatitis can include:

  • Jaundice, which means the eyes and skin are yellow and the urine is dark
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Loss of appetite