The liver is the largest organ in our body. Thanks to it, we can digest food, store energy and eliminate toxins from our body. However, like all other organs and structures, the liver is not immune to viruses and diseases.

One of the main conditions of the liver is hepatitis , in any of its different forms. In this article we will analyse what hepatitis is, describe the different types, their symptoms and their treatment.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver tissue , affecting vital organs; mainly the liver.

While it is true that some people do not develop symptoms of hepatitis, the most common signs of the onset of this disease include the development of a yellowish tone in the skin and eyes , as well as a lack of appetite and a continuous feeling of tiredness.

Depending on the duration of this (more or less than six months), we can distinguish between temporary hepatitis and chronic hepatitis. The temporary form occurs acutely over a period of time, whereas chronic hepatitis appears less severely but for a longer time .

However, although temporary or acute hepatitis may go into remission on its own, it can sometimes develop into chronic hepatitis and very rarely lead to acute liver failure. In the case of chronic hepatitis, this form can lead to scarring of the liver, liver failure, and even liver cancer.

Most cases of hepatitis are caused by a viral infection. However, drug or alcohol use an abnormal autoimmune response can also be the cause of this liver disease. We can differentiate between various types of hepatitis, hepatitis A, B, C, D, categorized according to the type of virus or cause that provokes it.

As of 2015, there were approximately 114 million cases of hepatitis A worldwide; 343 million people affected by chronic hepatitis B and 142 million with chronic hepatitis C.

As a result, it is estimated that more than one million deaths are caused directly or indirectly by hepatitis each year. In most cases, people with hepatitis die from liver scarring or liver cancer.

Symptoms of this disease

Although there are people in whom this disease is asymptomatic, hepatitis is characterized by a wide range of symptoms , ranging from very mild or barely noticeable symptoms to severe liver failure.

In addition, in each of the different forms of hepatitis, the symptoms can manifest themselves in different ways. However, because in all cases the kidney is the main organ affected, hepatitis may present with the following liver symptoms:

  • Decrease and loss of appetite .
  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Dark urine and pale stools .
  • Stomach pain.
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes or jaundice

In cases where hepatitis becomes complicated or chronic , liver failure, liver cancer, or even cirrhosis may occur, a condition that causes permanent scarring of the liver.
Types of hepatitis: causes and treatment

1. Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is one of the most contagious forms of hepatitis. Caused by the hepatitis A virus, the most likely way to become infected is through contaminated food or water, as well as through close contact with an infected person or object. The most common routes of transmission include:

  • Eating food handled by a person with hepatitis A who has not washed his or her hands properly.
  • Drink contaminated water.
  • Ingestion of raw crustaceans found in water contaminated with hepatitis A.
  • Close contact with an infected person .
  • Unprotected sex with an infected person

The characteristic symptoms of hepatitis A do not usually appear until the virus remains in the body for a few weeks, and they do not appear in all patients either.


No specific treatment has been developed for hepatitis A at this time. Usually, the body is able to eliminate the virus on its own , requiring approximately 6 six months for the liver to fully recover.

However, it is recommended that the person stay at rest, eat high-calorie foods, stay hydrated, and avoid alcohol.

2. Hepatitis B

As for hepatitis B, it is caused by the hepatitis B virus and its transmission is mainly associated with unprotected sexual contact, exchange of infected needles, accidental pricking with an infected needle or through mother-to-child transmission.

In most cases, hepatitis B becomes chronic, increasing the risk of liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis.


Treatment for hepatitis B is divided into treatment to prevent infection after exposure, treatment for acute hepatitis B, and treatment for chronic hepatitis B. To prevent the spread of hepatitis B, medical personnel administer an immunoglobulin injection and a hepatitis B injection .

In acute hepatitis B, no treatment may be required since the infection may go away on its own. In mild cases, rest and plenty of hydration are recommended. In more severe cases, antiviral medications may be required.

Finally, chronic hepatitis requires lifelong treatment which decreases both symptoms and the chances of contagion or others. Treatment for hepatitis B may include antiviral medications, interferon injections, or even a liver transplant if the liver is severely damaged.

3. Hepatitis C

In the third type of hepatitis, hepatitis C is spread by the spread of blood contaminated with the hepatitis C virus. This means that, in order for infection to occur, blood contaminated with the virus enters the bloodstream of an uninfected person.

In addition to the usual symptoms, hepatitis C can cause a number of symptoms specific to it. These include:

  • Bleeding and bruising easily caused.
  • Itchy skin feeling.
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.
  • Swelling in the legs .
  • Feeling confused, drowsy, and having difficulty speaking.
  • Appearance of blood vessels in spider type .

As with hepatitis B, treatment of hepatitis C consists of antiviral medications, hepatitis C vaccine and/or kidney transplant.

4. Hepatitis D

Also known as delta virus, hepatitis D has the highest mortality rate and only spreads in the presence of the hepatitis B virus; therefore is considered a subviral satellite . The transmission of hepatitis D can occur either by simultaneous infection with hepatitis B or overlapping with chronic hepatitis B.

These co-infections or superinfections can lead to much more serious complications in the patient such as liver failure in severe infections and rapid onset and progression of liver cirrhosis. This leads to an increased risk of kidney cancer.


It has been shown that the hepatitis B vaccine also protects against the type C virus , due to its dependency. However, in the case of safe transmission, treatment with interferon has proven to be very effective in reducing viral load and the effect of the disease during the time the drug is administered.

Bibliographic references:

  • Nakamoto, Y., & Kaneko, S.(2003). Mechanisms of viral hepatitis induced liver injury. Current Molecular Medicine, 3(6): 537-544.
  • Villar, L.M., Cruz. H. M., Barbosa, J. R., Bezerra, C. S., Portilho, M. M. & Scalioni, L. P. (2015). Update on hepatitis B and C virus diagnosis. World Journal of Virology, 4(4): 323-342.
  • Sahani, D. V. & Kalva, S. P. (2004). Imaging the Liver. The Oncologist, 9(4): 385-397.