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Hepatitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention


  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Feeling tired
  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • No appetite
  • Fever
  • Headaches


To check for hepatitis viruses, your doctor will test your blood. You may also need a biopsy to see if there is liver damage.


  • Bed rest, abstaining from alcohol, and taking medication to help relieve symptoms. Most people who have hepatitis A and E get well on their own after a few weeks.
  • Hepatitis B is treated with drugs, such as lamivudine and adefovir dipivoxil. Hepatitis C is treated with a combination of peginterferon and ribovarin.
  • Liver transplant of hepatitis B or C, or D-caused liver failure.


  • Hepatitis A
    Immunization of children (1-18 years of age) consists of two or three doses of the vaccine. Adults need a booster dose six to 12 months following the initial dose of vaccine. The vaccine is thought to be effective for 15–20 years or more.
  • Hepatitis B
    Safe and effective vaccines provide protection against hepatitis B for 15 years and possibly much longer. Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all newborns and individuals up to 18 years of age and adult participating at risk of infection be vaccinated. Three injections over a six to 12 month period are required to provide full protection.
  • In General:
    • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before fixing food or eating.
    • Use latex condoms, which may lower the risk of transmission.
    • Avoid tap water when traveling to certain countries or regions. Ask your doctor about risks before you travel or call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 877-FYI-TRIP.
    • Don't share drug needles.
    • Don't share personal items—such as toothbrushes, razors and nail clippers—with an infected person.

NIH Research to Results

Liver diseases afflict Americans of all ages and stages, but most frequently those in the productive "prime of life" years, between the ages of 40 and 60 years, notes Jay Hoofnagle, M.D., of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Minorities and the poor are especially hard hit.

Currently, an estimated 5.5 million Americans (approximately 2 to 3 percent of adults) suffer from chronic liver disease or cirrhosis. The combined diagnoses of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, viral hepatitis, and liver cancer make liver disease one of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States. While death rates from some forms of liver disease are decreasing, those for viral hepatitis and liver cancer are on the rise, both in the U.S. and worldwide. An estimated one quarter of Americans will suffer from a liver or biliary (gallbladder-related) disease at some point during their lifetime. Hepatitis, especially hepatitis C, is a chief cause of liver diseases.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What kind of hepatitis do I have?
  • Can I spread it to my family and others?
  • Can it be treated? If so, how?
  • Can I drink wine or beer?
  • How long will I be sick?
  • What if I am not better in a few weeks?

"The hepatitis C virus was discovered just 20 years ago," says Dr. Hoofnagle, who directs the Liver Disease Research Branch in NIDDK's Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition. "Today it is clear that hepatitis C is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States, the most common cause of liver scarring (cirrhosis), the most common reason for liver transplantation, and, now, the most common cause of liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the most critical area of all liver disease research."

Among many NIDDK research projects related to hepatitis and liver disease:

  • A recent study concluded that about half of patients with chronic hepatitis C recovered after receiving initial treatments from two drugs, peginterferon and ribavirin.

Read More "Hepatitis" Articles
The Dangers of Hepatitis / Hepatitis Can Strike Anyone / Hepatitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Spring 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 2 Page 25