Hepatitis is a condition in which liver inflammation interferes with liver function. It can cause scarring (cirrhosis) in some cases. Hepatitis is caused by viruses, autoimmune disease, genetic diseases and alcohol and drug use. Viruses are the leading cause of hepatitis, and each hepatitis type has an alphabet designation for the virus that causes it.

Below are summaries of each type of hepatitis, symptoms and possible treatments you can anticipate after you schedule an appointment with a Houston Methodist doctor.

Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is an acute infection often resulting from contact with bodily fluids such as stool from an individual who has the hepatitis A virus. It rarely is caused by blood product transmission. Symptoms may include:
• Low energy or fatigue
• Appetite loss
• Low-grade fever
• Skin yellowing (jaundice)

While no specific treatment exists for hepatitis A, almost all patients recover on their own within three months without permanent liver damage. Everyone should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A. People at risk for liver failure include those with lower immunity or cirrhosis.

You are at risk for hepatitis A infection if you:
• Live/lived somewhere with poor sanitation
• Have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A
• Live/lived with a person infected with hepatitis A
• Had sexual contact with someone with acute hepatitis A
• Traveled where hepatitis A is common among people
• Are a man who has had sex with men
• Used intravenous drugs

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with the blood, semen or other bodily fluids of an individual who has the hepatitis B virus. Symptoms often appear two to five months after infection and may include:
• Appetite loss
• Fever
• Muscle and joint aches
• Jaundice
• Nausea and vomiting

Some patients may not experience symptoms. 

Hepatitis B is diagnosed using blood tests. Acute hepatitis B requires monitoring of the liver and certain bodily functions through blood tests. Depending on your immune status, you may be able to fight the virus, though some patients can’t do so and become chronically infected. Medicines can suppress the virus and prevent cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Severe, chronic hepatitis B may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and need for a liver transplant. Hepatitis B also can cause liver cancer, even in the absence of cirrhosis. Patients need to be screened for early cancer detection when it can be cured. Everyone should be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

You are at risk for hepatitis B infection if you:
• Were not vaccinated against hepatitis B
• Were born to an infected mother
• Came in contact with infected bodily fluids
• Live/lived with an infected person
• Had unprotected sex with an infected person
• Had multiple sexual partners
• Have had a sexually transmitted disease
• Are a man who has had sex with men
• Injected or inhaled drugs, no matter how frequently
• Worked or were incarcerated in a prison
• Traveled where hepatitis B is common among people
• Had hemodialysis (machine-filtered blood)

Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C can be contracted through contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of someone infected with hepatitis C. The infection has acute and chronic forms, and most infected people develop chronic hepatitis C. Most patients with hepatitis C don’t experience symptoms. Those who do may notice:
• Pain in the upper right abdomen
• Abdominal swelling
• Dark urine
• Fatigue
• Fever

Hepatitis C causes liver inflammation, which can lead to cirrhosis.

Chronic hepatitis C is the second leading cause of cirrhosis in the United States, according to the American Liver Foundation. One in four people with chronic hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis. In more than 90 percent of cases, new antiviral medicines can cure hepatitis C, as well as prevent cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Your risk of hepatitis C infection increases if you:
• Were born between 1945 and 1965
• Shared needles or straws to inject or inhale drugs
• Were tattooed or pierced with unsterile equipment 
• Came in contact with infected blood or needles
• Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
• Received a blood product made before 1987 for clotting problems
• Had hemodialysis for kidney disease
• Were born to an infected mother
• Had unprotected sex with multiple partners
• Have had a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV

Hepatitis D
Hepatitis D, also called delta hepatitis, is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis D virus, which develops only if the patient already is infected with the hepatitis B virus. 

Hepatitis D can be acquired through:
• Co-infection – simultaneous hepatitis B and hepatitis D infection. It usually is acute and resolves itself.
• Superinfection – hepatitis B infection precedes hepatitis D infection. Superinfection can worsen cirrhosis from hepatitis B and lead to liver failure. 

Hepatitis D symptoms typically are the same as those for hepatitis B:
• Jaundice
• Dark urine
• Abdominal pain
• Confusion
• Nausea and vomiting

If you have hepatitis B, sudden worsening of your symptoms could be a sign of hepatitis D infection. 

Treatment for patients with co-infection usually is not needed. Hepatitis D will go away once the body fights the hepatitis B infection. 

Patients with superinfection may need antiviral therapy. They also may need a liver transplant if liver failure occurs.

Hepatitis E
Hepatitis E is transmitted in a similar fashion as hepatitis A and has similar symptoms. In the United States, it can be transmitted through contact with animals such as deer and wild and domesticated pigs. Hepatitis E can become serious in patients with suppressed immune systems. A vaccine is expected to soon become available.

Fatty Liver Disease
Obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol may cause patients to develop fat in their liver, which can result in inflammation. Patients with fatty liver disease and hepatitis are at increased risk for developing cirrhosis. 

Autoimmune Hepatitis
Autoimmune hepatitis is liver Inflammation caused by an immune system defect that results in your body attacking yourself. It most often occurs in women and can lead to symptoms similar to viral hepatitis. It may cause cirrhosis. Treatment includes steroids and immunosuppressant medicines that can place the disease in remission and prevent complications.

Drug-induced Hepatitis
Drug-induced hepatitis, also known as hepatotoxicity or drug-induced liver injury, refers to liver damage caused by drugs or other chemical substances. Many patients with mild drug-induced hepatitis do not have noticeable symptoms and discover the problem only after they have tests performed for other reasons. More severe cases of drug-induced hepatitis have symptoms similar to viral hepatitis, including:
• Malaise
• Nausea and vomiting
• Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right side
• Jaundice
• Light or gray-colored stools
• Dark urine

Drug-induced hepatitis most often occurs within three months of starting a new medicine. No specific tests exist to diagnose drug-induced hepatitis, so it can be difficult to identify. Physicians must rely on patient medicine reporting, including dosage and frequency. Certain tests can eliminate other conditions such as viral hepatitis or hemochromatosis (iron overload). A liver biopsy can assess damage, but does little to distinguish drug-induced hepatitis from viral hepatitis or biliary tract disease. The patient’s drug and medicine history is the physician’s best resource for an accurate diagnosis.

Alcohol-induced Hepatitis
Moderate alcohol consumption can lead to liver inflammation and cirrhosis. Women are three times more likely than men to develop alcohol-related liver complications. You increase your risk for liver damage and cirrhosis if you drink alcohol and have other liver diseases such as fatty liver or viral hepatitis.

Genetically Induced Hepatitis
Some inherited conditions can, though rarely, cause hepatitis. A family history of liver disease or cirrhosis could be an indicator.


Our physicians at Houston Methodist specialize in treating hepatitis at the following convenient locations.