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What Are the Symptoms of Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a disease that occurs when a certain strain of hepatitis virus attacks the liver, causing inflammation and interfering with vital functions such as processing nutrients from food and filtering toxins from your blood. The virus is frequently contracted by consuming contaminated food or beverages or having close contact with an infected person, and the early warning signs are often similar to flu symptoms. Although most people who are infected will recover without treatment, it’s a good idea to seek medical care if you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus. In rare cases, hepatitis A can develop into chronic liver inflammation that can lead to liver failure and even death.

The highly skilled physicians and other medical professionals on the liver disease team at Tampa General Hospital’s Liver Disease and Hepatology Program treat all forms of hepatitis – including hepatitis A, B and C – with expertise and compassion. Our team brings a wealth of experience to the treatment of hepatic diseases, thanks largely to our high patient volumes and the many complex cases we treat. This vast experience translates into world-class outcomes and above-average outcomes for our patients. If you or someone you know is dealing with liver disease, call us at 1-800-505-7769 to learn more about our well-rounded approach to treatment, or click here to use our online Physician Finder service.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

Some people who have hepatitis A show no symptoms at all and never know they were exposed to the virus. For those who develop symptoms, the first signs aren’t likely to appear until two or more weeks after the virus was contracted, and they usually develop over a period of several days. Typical symptoms may include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Abdominal pain, especially on the right side where your liver is located
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of your eyes)
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark urine
  • Low-grade fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Itchy skin
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches

How Long Do Hepatitis A Symptoms Last?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most people who develop symptoms will recover fully within two months. About 10% to 15% of hepatitis A patients will experience symptoms for up to six months.

Can an Infected Person With No Symptoms Spread Hepatitis A?

Yes. People can contract the hepatitis A virus through contact with an infected person, even if the infected person does not show any signs of illness. What’s more, infected persons can transmit the virus to others for up to two weeks before their own symptoms begin.

When Hepatitis A Leads to Complications

Some people who contract hepatitis A can develop a serious, life-threatening medical condition known as fulminant hepatitis. This condition can lead to sudden liver failure, and the people who are affected are usually older than 50 or already have long-term liver disease. Symptoms of this condition can include:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of mental alertness
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes that progressively worsens
  • Spontaneous bleeding
  • Unusual bruising

When to See a Doctor

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of hepatitis A, it’s a good idea to consult with a physician as soon as possible. Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms, you’ll want to schedule a doctor’s visit if:  

  • You have eaten at a restaurant that has reported a hepatitis A outbreak
  • You’ve discovered that someone close to you – such as a sexual partner, roommate or caregiver – has been diagnosed with hepatitis A

For more information about hepatitis A, or to schedule an appointment with one of the physicians at Tampa General’s Liver Disease and Hepatology Program, call 1-800-505-7769.