Hepatitis A Symptoms

  • Symptoms

    People with hepatitis A may develop symptoms of liver damage that come on quickly. The symptoms of acute hepatitis are related to the invasion of liver cells by the virus, causing inflammation and disruption of the organ’s vital functions. They include the following:

    • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
    • fever
    • fatigue
    • abdominal pain
    • nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
    • dark urine.

    The symptoms tend to clear up unaided within 8 weeks after infection. Initially, symptoms of hepatitis usually appear within about 28 days. The onset is typically sudden, with fever, headache, and nausea appearing first, followed in several days by dark urine and jaundice (if these symptoms appear at all). The disease is more severe in the elderly and in those who already have some type of chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

    Not all people will have symptoms; only about 70% of adults and 30% of children show signs of the disease. Most people do not need to be hospitalized for hepatitis A, and the disease normally resolves in about three to six months.

    In rare cases, people may experience a variety of hepatitis A called cholestatic hepatitis A. Cholestatic hepatitis A has a longer course (several months), and will almost always cause severe itching and jaundice. In very rare cases, hepatitis A can worsen rapidly and become life-threatening. In these cases, patients become drowsy or confused. If you have hepatitis A and experience these symptoms, get immediate medical attention.

    In some cases, people can relapse. Relapsing hepatitis A is uncommon, but it does occur. Someone who relapses will have two or more episodes of acute hepatitis during a 6- to-10-week period, with a period of time in between when they are free of symptoms.

  • Risk Factors

    People traveling in parts of the world where hepatitis A is common are more likely to become ill. South and Central America, Africa, Asia, India, and the Middle East all have relatively high rates of the disease.

    People living in communities where there is a higher rate of hepatitis A have a greater risk of catching the disease. In the U.S., Alaskan native villages and Native American reservations have high rates of hepatitis A when compared to the population average.

    Men who have sex with other men are more likely to contract hepatitis A.

    Intravenous (IV) drug use is a risk factor for hepatitis A. This is particularly true because IV drug users have high rates of hepatitis C. The chronic liver damage caused by hepatitis C can make acute hepatitis more severe.

    In some instances, people with bleeding disorders who take clotting factor concentrates to control their bleeding may be at greater risk for hepatitis A.

    Some occupations carry a higher risk for hepatitis A. These include laboratory technicians and scientists who work with the virus itself; and scientists or workers who handle primates.

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