Viral (or aseptic) hepatitis is liver inflammation caused by
infection with a virus. Common symptoms of hepatitis are pain below the right
side of the rib cage, nausea, fatigue, jaundice (causing a yellowing of the
skin and the whites of the eyes), and headache.
All types of
hepatitis damage liver cells. Hepatitis can cause the liver to become swollen and
tender. Some types of hepatitis can cause permanent liver damage.
The following viruses can cause hepatitis:
Hepatitis A virus (HAV)
Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
Hepatitis D virus
Hepatitis E virus (HEV)
Epstein-Barr virus (which
causes mononucleosis but rarely causes hepatitis)
(which causes CMV, which is like mononucleosis but rarely causes
A virus that causes hepatitis can spread from one person to
another. Some hepatitis viruses spread when an uninfected person comes in
contact with infected body fluids. Body fluids include blood, semen, or vaginal fluid.
Other viruses are spread by contaminated food and water or by coming in direct
contact with the stool (feces) of a person who is infected with the virus. In
the early stage of infection, the
type of hepatitis virus causing the infection may be
hard to identify. But several weeks to several
months after infection occurs, blood tests can show which of the viruses is
Most people with viral hepatitis recover
on their own. Antiviral medicine can treat many cases
of hepatitis. Some forms of hepatitis can become chronic and increase a
person's chance of liver failure or liver cancer.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology