Liver Disease Information
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Explore this section to learn more about hepatitis A, including a description of the disease and how it's diagnosed.
The liver is the second largest organ in your body and is located under your rib cage on the right side. It weighs about three pounds and is shaped like a football that is flat on one side.
The liver performs many jobs in your body. It processes what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients your body can use. The liver also removes harmful substances from your blood.
Hepatitis A is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV causes the liver to swell and prevents it from working well.
HAV usually goes away on its own in almost all cases with no serious complications. However, HAV may cause some patients to suffer liver failure. In the United States, there are about 100 deaths a year due to HAV. Those at risk of serious long term effects from HAV include people with other liver diseases and people over 60.
Anyone who has come in close contact with someone who has HAV or who has eaten food or drank water polluted by HAV is at risk.
HAV is most commonly spread by:
Low energy is the most common symptom of HAV. Other symptoms include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, headache, itchy skin, muscle soreness, pain near the liver, and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
Symptoms of HAV can occur two to seven weeks after infection and are often mild. Children may not have any symptoms. Symptoms usually go away within two months. If you think you have HAV, it is important to see a doctor -- symptoms of HAV are similar to other more serious liver diseases.
Hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test.
A blood test is done to see if HAV antibodies are in the body. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system in response to viruses.
HAV usually goes away on its own within six months.
Doctors often recommend bed rest, drinking lots of fluids, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol. Medicines are not used to treat HAV. Talk to your doctor before taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs, vitamins or herbal supplements.
Itchy skin caused by HAV can be treated with non-prescription anti-itch medicine.
It is important to see your doctor regularly to make sure your body has fully recovered from the virus. Also, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated for hepatitis B.
Hepatitis A vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A. The hepatitis A vaccine is given in 2 doses, usually about 6 months apart.
Other ways to stop the spread of HAV are:
Those who should get vaccinated against HAV include:
If you think you have come in contact with HAV, your doctor may give you a HAV vaccination or a shot of immune globulin, which can help increase protection to HAV.