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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Hepatitis A
      Category : Health Centers > Digestive System

Hepatitis A

Alternate Names : Hepatovirus Infection

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Hepatitis A is an infection and inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. It is one of several types of hepatitis.

What is going on in the body?

The liver is an important organ located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. It is responsible for:

  • filtering the blood
  • making bile, a substance that aids in digestion and helps rid the body of harmful substances
  • processing fats and sugars, helping the body store energy for later use
  • making important proteins, such as those involved in blood clotting
  • metabolizing many medications, such as barbiturates, sedatives, and amphetamines
  • storing vitamins A, B12, D, and several of the B-complex vitamins. The liver also stores iron and copper.
  • The liver is susceptible to hepatitis viruses. A hepatitis virus can cause sudden, severe inflammation of the liver cells. Infection can occur at any age. Classic yellowing of the eyes and skin, called jaundice, is usually the first sign of a problem. Hepatitis A does not cause problems or disease in other parts of the body, as other hepatitis viruses can.

    After exposure to the virus, the hepatitis usually occurs within 2 to 4 weeks. In industrialized countries, hepatitis A usually occurs in an epidemic setting. This is a cluster of cases in a population that has previously been unexposed. These cases in an epidemic can have a common source of exposure.

    Some parts of the world have persistent, ongoing cases in a large part of the population. This hepatitis, called endemic hepatitis A, occurs in nonindustrialized countries.

    What are the causes and risks of the infection?

    Hepatitis A is generally spread by food and water that is contaminated with the virus from an infected person. Rarely, it is spread when a person is exposed to the blood of another person with acute hepatitis. The following groups have a higher risk for this disease:

  • military personnel
  • homosexual males
  • travelers to Third World countries


    Next section


    Hepatitis A: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Thomas Fisher, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/13/01

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