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Hepatitis A

Definition


Disease: Hepatitis A Hepatitis A
Category: Liver Diseases
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Disease Definition:

Hepatitis A (Caused by hepatitis virus A), also known as infectious hepatitis, is a highly contagious liver infection. This disease is one of the several types of hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation, affecting the liver's ability to function.

Contaminated food or water, or a close contact with someone who's already infected are the most common ways of contracting hepatitis A. Most infected people recover completely with no permanent liver damage, and its mild cases don't require treatment.

One of the best ways to protect against hepatitis A is practicing good hygiene, including washing hands often. People who are most at risk could be vaccinated.

Work Group:


Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

Usually, until a person has had the virus for a month, the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A won't appear. Some of its signs and symptoms may include:
-    Low-grade fever
-    Fatigue
-    Dark urine
-    Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
-    Abdominal pain or discomfort, particularly in the area of the liver on the right side below the lower ribs.
-    Loss of appetite
-    Nausea and vomiting
-    Itching
-    Muscle pain

Not everyone who has hepatitis A develops signs and symptoms, and although these signs and symptoms could last as long as six months, but they usually last less than two months.

In case a person has worrisome signs or symptoms, they should make an appointment to see a doctor.

In case a person has been exposed to hepatitis A, to prevent the infection, they could either be vaccinated, or undergo immunoglobulin therapy within two weeks. A person should ask a doctor about receiving the hepatitis A vaccine in case:
-    Someone close to the person, for instance a caregiver or someone they live with, is diagnosed with hepatitis A.
-    They recently shared self-injected drugs with someone who has hepatitis A.
-    A restaurant where they recently ate reports an outbreak of hepatitis A.
-    They recently had sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A.

Causes:

Infection with the hepatitis A virus causes hepatitis A. When a person ingests tiny amounts of contaminated fecal matter; the hepatitis virus is usually spread. The liver cells are infected by the hepatitis A virus, causing inflammation, which could impair liver function and cause other hepatitis A signs and symptoms.

There are several ways by which the hepatitis A virus could be transmitted, such as:
-    Eating raw shellfish from water polluted with sewage.
-    Having sex with someone who has the virus.
-    Food that is handled by someone with the virus without carefully washing their hands first or after using the toilet.
-    Receiving a blood transfusion with blood that contains the virus, but this is quite rare.
-    Drinking contaminated water.
-    Being in close contact with an infected person, even if that person doesn't have any signs or symptoms.

Complications

Complications:

CONTINUING SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF HEPATITIS A
A few people with hepatitis A may continue experiencing signs and symptoms of infection for several weeks longer than usual. The signs and symptoms of hepatitis A for these people could go away and then reappear over several weeks. This form of hepatitis A infection is not more serious than a hepatitis A infection that causes the usual signs and symptoms despite the fact that signs and symptoms of this kind occur over a longer period of time.

ACUTE LIVER FAILURE
Acute liver failure, which is the loss of liver function that occurs suddenly, could be due to hepatitis A in some rare cases. People with chronic liver diseases and older adults are at highest risk of this complication. Typically, acute liver failure requires hospitalization for treatment and monitoring. In some cases, a liver transplant may be necessary for people with acute liver failure.

Treatments:

Hepatitis A doesn't have a specific treatment. The hepatitis A virus will be cleared from the body on its own. The liver heals completely in a month or two in most cases without leaving any lasting damage.

Usually, coping with the signs and symptoms of hepatitis A infection is what treatment for this disease focuses on. For example, a person should:

Find ways to cope with nausea:
A person with this condition should find ways to make food more appealing because nausea could make it difficult to eat. Instead of eating three large meals, someone could eat small snacks throughout the day. People with this condition should try soft and easily digested foods because they may also be the most appealing such as toast, yogurt, soup or broth.

Expect to have less energy:
In order to recover, a person may have to spend a few days off work or school. Most people with hepatitis A infection feel tired and have less energy for their daily tasks. They should rest whenever they need to.

Give their liver a rest:
In case someone has hepatitis A, their liver may have difficulty processing alcohol and medications. They should review their medications with a doctor, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. They may be recommended stopping or changing some of those medications. A person shouldn't drink alcohol while having signs and symptoms of hepatitis A.

Prognosis:

Not available

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