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.
  • Fatigue.

Some types of hepatitis can cause serious, long-term complications, such as severe and permanent liver damage.

Current as of: May 22, 2015

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology