Also known as liver inflammation

Hepatitis is a disease caused by inflammation of the liver. It usually results from infection with a virus, but there are also non-viral forms of the disease, including hepatitis brought on by the use of certain drugs, alcohol abuse, and autoimmune disease. 

Hepatitis can be acute (lasting just a few weeks to a few months), cause few, if any, symptoms, and resolve on its own. It can also be chronic, meaning inflammation persists for six months or longer. Chronic hepatitis can lead to serious and even life-threatening complications, such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure.

There are effective vaccines for two of the viral forms: hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is hepatitis contagious?

    Five viruses can cause hepatitis: hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV), hepatitis E virus (HEV). Some forms are transmitted by contaminated food, water, and stool. Others are primarily transmitted by blood or bodily fluids. Preventative measures include washing your hands, using condoms, avoiding shared needles, and vaccination.

  • How is hepatitis spread?

    Hepatitis A and E mainly spread through contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B spreads through blood and bodily fluids and is spread during sex, needle sharing, and from a pregnant woman to her baby. Hepatitis C mostly spreads through blood. Hepatitis D also spreads through blood and body fluids and only infects those already infected with Hepatitis B.

  • How do you get hepatitis?

    The causes can be broadly categorized as infectious, metabolic, or autoimmune. Viral hepatitis, especially hepatitis B and C, is the most common form. There is also autoimmune hepatitis that may be caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors and toxic hepatitis caused by excessive alcohol use, toxic chemicals, or drugs.

  • Which hepatitis is the worst?

    Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the most common viral causes of chronic hepatitis and liver damage. Hepatitis B is particularly dangerous for infants. Approximately 90% of infants with HBV develop chronic infections. There is no cure for HBV, but there is a vaccine to prevent it.

  • Can hepatitis be cured?

    Viral infections often clear on their own. If the condition becomes chronic, there is no cure for Hepatitis B. Medications, especially direct-acting antivirals, are able to cure hepatitis C in most cases, yet may be cost prohibitive to many people. Hepatitis A or E resolve on their own and do not result in chronic illness.

Key Terms

Illustration of pills/capsules
Baraclude (Entecavir) Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Dosage
Man with jaundice, a symptom of hepatitis
Symptoms of Hepatitis D
a woman with liver pain
What Is Autoimmune Hepatitis?
Fatty liver diease
Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH): Symptoms and Causes
A young man consulting with his doctor
Hepatologist or Gastroenterologist? Choose the Right Liver Specialist
Doctor Taking Blood
How Long Hepatitis Viruses Live Outside the Body Depends on the Type
Technician holding blood sample
Hepatitis Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
What You Should Know About the 5 Types of Viral Hepatitis
The hepatitis C virus.
How Many People Have Hepatitis Worldwide?
Doctor washing hands
What Is the Role of a Hepatologist?
Close up of jaundiced eyes.
The Danger of Too-High Bilirubin
Woman getting a physical
The Immune System and Its Role in Hepatitis
Preventing Exposure to the Hepatitis Virus Microbes
Doctor and patient looking at digital tablet
The Liver Helps Break Down Food and Remove Toxins in Your Body
An illustration of the liver in the body
How Bile Helps Digestion
Close up of bourbon in glasses in a row on bar
Living with Liver Failure
Hepatitis B positive
What Being HBsAg Positive Means
Man drinking water at restaurant
How to Protect Yourself From Hepatitis E
Cropped shot of young Asian woman consulting to her family doctor online in a virtual appointment
Best At-Home Hepatitis C Tests
Healthcare provider talks to person diagnosed with hepatitis B
Can Hepatitis B Be Cured?
Person with yellowed eyes as seen in hepatitis A infection
Hepatitis A Overview
Needle sharing is one way Hepatitis B spreads.
How Is Hepatitis B Transmitted?
Hepatitis B virus, illustration
These Eye Problems May Be Caused by Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B virus test
Testing for Hepatitis B can be Confusing
Doctor discussing medical results with male patient in hospital
An Overview of Hepatitis B
Doctor discussing with patient
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B: Similar or Different?
Hepatitis B virus
Hepatitis B is a Deadly Hepatic Infection
Caucasian woman washing her hands
Knowing How Hepatitis A Spreads Is the Key to Prevention
nurse preparing hepatitis b vaccine
How Celiac Disease Makes the Hepatitis B Vaccine Less Effective
Person itching a rash that could be due to hepatitis
Hepatitis Rash: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
idsection Of Overweight Man Against White Background
When Peritoneal Fluid Becomes Ascites in Hepatitis Patients
Joint pain
How to Manage the Joint Pain That Can Come With Hepatitis C
Close-Up Of Man Eating Cheeseburger On Street
Digestive System Anatomy for Health Problems Resulting From Hepatitis
Sick and tired woman sleeping in the bed in early morning
What Are the Symptoms of Acute Viral Hepatitis?
jaundice of the sclera (white of the eye)
What Should I Do I Have If I Have Jaundice?
Doctor showing CT scan to patient
The Link Between Hepatitis and Liver Cancer
Nurse scanning patient's thyroid gland
How Hepatitis and Thyroid Problems Are Linked
man with abdominal pain
What to Do If You Have HIV and Viral Hepatitis
Woman considers costs for hepatitis C treatment
What Does Hepatitis C Treatment Cost?
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Epivir (Lamivudine) Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages
Illustration of subcutaneous injection
Harvoni (Ledipasvir/Sofosbuvir) Oral: Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Interactions
Doctor sitting down and speaking with couple
How Hepatitits D Is Treated
Doctor on a telehealth consultation with an older male patient
Is Telehealth Right for Me if I Have Hepatitis?
Mavyret (glecaprevir and pibrentasvir)
Mavyret Able to Cure Hepatitis C in as Little as 8 Weeks
Tenofovir pills on table
Risks and Benefits of Tenofovir to Treat Hepatitis B
Paperwork with Hepatitis A and B listed
How to Decide Whether Entecavir Is the Right Drug for You
A pegylated interferon drug.
How Pegylation Improves Interferon Treatment for Hepatitis Patients
The Hepatitis C virus.
How Do Peginterferon Alfa 2a and 2b Treat Viral Hepatitis?
Woman Taking Out Pills From Bottle
Ribavirin Drug and Treatment for Hepatitis C
Surgeon talking to patient
Is a Liver Transplant the Best Option for You?
Man taking a pill for hepatitis C
Hepatitis C Treatment and Sustained Virologic Response
Nurse preparing an injection
How Immune Globulin Works for Treating Viral Hepatitis
Harvoni (ledipasvir + sofosbuvir)
FDA-Approved Hepatitis C Drugs
Doctor gives female patient a liver exam for hepatitis c
Hepatitis C Incubation Period: What to Expect
Woman in bed feeling tired, dizzy, headache with anemia
Hepatitis and Anemia: What’s the Connection?
Black man in hospital bed being comforted
Liver Cancer Deaths Linked to Inequalities in Hepatitis C Treatment
Drug injection is a common way hepatitis C is transmitted
How Hepatitis C Is Transmitted (and How It Isn't)
Black American man with vial of prescription pills and water
Why Black People Are Not Being Treated for Hepatitis C
Black male patient comforted by female doctor
Why Hepatitis C Affects Black People More Than Others
Medication Overload
The Link Between Opioid Drugs and Hepatitis C
Page Sources
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  1. National Cancer Institute. Breast Cancer Risk in American Women. Updated October 3, 2019.

  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. What is viral hepatitis? Updated May 2017.