Hepatitis is a disease that harms the liver. There are three main types. Hepatitis A spreads through oral sex or infected food. Types B and C spread through body fluids or infected needles. Hepatitis can be treated, but the virus often stays in the body. In some cases, this can lead to severe liver damage and even death. There is a vaccine to help prevent hepatitis A and B. If you're at risk, ask your doctor about the hepatitis vaccine. (Note: No vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis C.)
Vaccines can prevent hepatitis A and B.
What to Look For
Hepatitis may not show symptoms for months, or even years. But over time, liver damage causes serious health problems.
- Early-stage symptoms can include tiredness, loss of appetite, yellow skin and eyes (jaundice), nausea, muscle aches, fever, dark urine, and diarrhea.
- Later-stage symptoms can include jaundice, swollen legs and abdomen, and internal bleeding.
Hepatitis A can be treated with rest and medications. For types B and C, you will be referred to a special doctor. He or she can help you learn more about the disease and how to manage it. You will also have checkups to make sure your liver is still working properly.
If You Don't Get Treated
Hepatitis B and C can stay in the body and keep damaging the liver. After many years, a liver transplant may be needed.
Never share piercing, tattoo, or drug needles. Hepatitis B and C can spread through infected needles.