Hepatitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the liver and interferes with its normal function. Hepatitis can be caused by infection (usually by a virus), excessive alcohol use, medicine, or a problem with the immune system.
The three most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis is contagious. All three types of viral hepatitis (A, B, and C) can be spread through contact with body fluids. Hepatitis A can also spread when people consume food or water contaminated by stool (feces) containing the virus.
Symptoms of hepatitis can last for weeks to months. They include:
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
- Weight loss and lack of appetite.
- Discomfort in the upper right abdomen.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Brownish urine.
Some types of hepatitis can cause serious, long-term complications, such as severe and permanent liver damage.
How can you care for yourself when you have hepatitis?
- Be safe with medicines. If your doctor prescribes antiviral medicine, take it exactly as directed. Do not stop or change a medicine without talking to your doctor first.
- Lower your activity to match your energy.
- Avoid alcohol for as long as your doctor says. Alcohol can make liver problems worse. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counseling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help you stay sober.
- Make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you take. Do not take any new medicines unless your doctor says it is okay.
- Follow your doctor’s advice about your diet.
- If you have itchy skin, keep cool, stay out of the sun. Try to wear cotton clothing. Talk to your doctor about medicines that can be used for itching. Follow the instructions on the label.