Hepatitis may start and get better quickly (acute hepatitis), or cause long-term disease (chronic hepatitis). In some instances, it may lead to liver damage, liver failure, or even liver cancer.
How severe hepatitis is depends on many factors, including the cause of the liver damage and any illnesses you have. Hepatitis A, for example, is usually short-term and does not lead to chronic liver problems.
The symptoms of hepatitis include:
Abdominal painor distention Breast development in males
Dark urineand pale or clay-colored stools Fatigue
- Fever, usually low-grade
- General itching
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
Loss of appetite Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
Many people with hepatitis B or C do not have symptoms when they are first infected. They can still develop liver failure later. If you have any risk factors for either type of hepatitis, you should be tested regularly.
Signs and tests
A physical examination may show:
- Enlarged and tender liver
- Fluid in the abdomen (
ascites) that can become infected
- Yellowing of the skin
Your doctor may order laboratory tests to diagnose and monitor the hepatitis, including:
- Autoimmune blood markers
Hepatitis virus serologies Liver function tests
Liver biopsyto check for liver damage
Paracentesisif fluid is in your abdomen
Review Date: 11/23/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.