Viral hepatitis A, B, C and D

Inflammation of the Liver

Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, it is infectious and can cause serious liver damage

About viral hepatitis A, B, C and D

The main types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Viral hepatitis can be either acute or chronic (lasting more than six months). Hepatitis B and C have also been described as silent epidemics. At HCA UK, we can help you test for and diagnose viral hepatitis, and advise on treatment options and prevention.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of Viral hepatitis A B C and D icon plus

    Your symptoms will vary depending on the type of viral hepatitis you have. Common symptoms of viral hepatitis include:

    • fatigue
    • fever
    • nausea
    • joint or muscle pain
    • loss of appetite
    • abdominal pain
    • diarrhoea
    • dark urine
    • pale or grey-coloured stools
    • itching
    • jaundice

    Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are often chronic but seem symptomless or with only flu-like symptoms. Many people are therefore unaware they are infected.

    Hepatitis A and hepatitis E are acute conditions as the body is often able to clear the infection by itself within a few weeks or months. However, both infections can sometimes cause complications in people with a weakened immune system.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and may recommend certain tests to aid in diagnosis.

    Blood tests that look for specific antibodies, such as the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) or hepatitis C antibodies (anti-HCV), are usually carried out to distinguish and identify the type of viral infection suspected by your consultant.

    Liver function tests (LFTs), a specific group of blood tests, may also be required to check if your liver is inflamed (swollen or irritated).

    For even greater accuracy, a PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction), which shows if you have the virus itself, such as hepatitis C RNA, may also be considered.

    Transient elastography (FibroScan) is uded to measure scarring levels.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    If you've been diagnosed with viral hepatitis, your consultant will discuss your treatment options with you and help to determine the best approach for you. Treatment options include:

    • Anti-viral and antineoplastic medication, which stimulates the immune system against the virus, or nucleoside or nucleotide analogues which stop the virus from replicating (hepatitis B).
    • Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) which attacks the virus itself and increasingly used in combination with each other (hepatitis C).
    • Anti-viral therapy (hepatitis C).

    Options for prevention include vaccination and lifestyle counselling.

Types of viral hepatitis

Hepatitis A

Mainly spread through eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Endemic in places with poor sanitation. A vaccine exists to prevent it.

Hepatitis B

Transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. Can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. Vaccination is effective.

Hepatitis C

Spread through blood-to-blood contact such as unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilisation of medical equipment and unscreened blood products.

Hepatitis D

Only occurs in people already infected with the hepatitis B virus. Vaccination against hepatitis B is therefore a highly effective preventive measure.

Hepatitis E

Transmitted by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, like hepatitis A. Most people recover with little or no medical intervention.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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