Hepatitis A

Alternative Names

Viral hepatitis; Infectious hepatitis

Definition of Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is inflammation (irritation and swelling) of the liver from the hepatitis A virus.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The hepatitis A virus is found mostly in the stools and blood of an infected person about 15 – 45 days before symptoms occur and during the first week of illness.


Symptoms will usually show up 2 – 6 weeks after being exposed to the hepatitis A virus. They are usually mild, but may last for up to several months, especially in adults.

Signs and tests

The doctor will perform a physical examination and may discover that you have an enlarged and tender liver.


There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A. Rest is recommended when the symptoms are most severe. People with acute hepatitis should avoid alcohol and any substances that are toxic to the liver, including acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Expectations (prognosis)

The virus does not remain in the body after the infection has gone away.


David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 11/23/2010

Digestive system
Hepatitis A
Erythema multiforme, circular lesions - hands
Digestive system organs

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.