What causes Hepatitis and what are the main symptoms to look out for?

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HEPATITIS causes inflammation of the liver after a viral infection.

It can become very serious, so it’s good to familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms.

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Hepatitis is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liverCredit: Getty – Contributor

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an umbrella term describing inflammation of the liver.

It can be the result of heavy drinking or a viral infection.

There are several different types of the disease which are caused by different viruses and are treated in different ways.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

For short-term hepatitis there are often no symptoms so it can be hard to know that you are suffering from the condition.

But – according to the NHS – if symptoms do develop they may include:

  • muscle pain
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • feeling sick
  • loss of appetite
  • itchy skin
  • dark urine or pale
  • grey coloured poo.

Long-term hepatitis can also develop without any symptoms, until the liver fails completely, so it is sometimes only caught in blood tests.

In early 2022, children started suffering with a mysterious hepatitis outbreak, with dozens of kids all over the world being struck down.

There have been 114 cases reported in Britain since March alone – more than double a normal year’s worth.

Experts investigating the outbreak said the majority of kids have experienced diarrhoea and nausea.

Is there a Hepatitis vaccine?

There is a vaccination available for Hepatitis A.

This is rerecorded if you are at high risk of infection or if you’re travelling to a country where the disease is common; the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Central and South America, the Far East and Eastern Europe.

There is also a vaccination available in the UK for Hepatitis B which is recommended for people in high risk groups.

High risk groups include health care workers, people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men and children whose mothers are infected.

There is currently no vaccine for Hepatitis C, D or E.

What is Hepatitis E?

There are lots of different types of the viral infection, but Hepatitis E is now the most common cause of short-term hepatitis in the UK.

The virus is mainly associated with the consumption of under-cooked meat, game or shellfish.

On the whole Hepatitis E is short-term and relatively mild but it can be more serious for people with an already weak immune system.

The different types of Hepatitis explained…

Hepatitis A

  • Caused by Hepatitis A virus
  • Caught by consuming food or drink contamined with the poo of an infected person
  • Usually passes within a few months
  • There’s no specific treatment

Hepatitis B

  • Caused by Hepatitis B virus
  • Spread through the blood of an infected person
  • Commonly transferred through infected needles, from pregnant women to their babies or through unprotected sex
  • Most adults infected are able to fight off the virus and recover in a few months
  • Children can develop chronic hepatitis which can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer
  • It can be treated with antiviral medication

Hepatitis C

  • Caused by Hepatitis C virus
  • Spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person
  • Commonly spread through sharing needles
  • One in four fight off the infection themselves
  • For the others it can stay in their system for many years
  • These chronic hepatitis C cases can cause cirrhosis and liver failure

Hepatitis D

  • Caused by Hepatitis D virus
  • Only affects people already affected by Hepatitis B
  • Spread through blood-to-blood or sexual contact with an infected person

Hepatitis E

  • Caused by Hepatitis E virus
  • Mainly spread through consumption of uncooked meat
  • Generally mild and short term

Alcoholic hepatitis

  • Caused by excessive drinking
  • Can cause sudden jaundice and liver failure
  • Stopping drinking will usually allow your body to recover
  • Risk can be reduced by reducing alcohol consumption



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