Doctor's Notes on Hepatitis A (HAV, Hep A)
Hepatitis A is a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver. It is caused by an infection with the hepatitis A virus. Hepatitis A virus is spread from person to person by contaminated stools (feces), foods that have been touched or prepared by an infected person, and close personal contact with an infected person, or contaminated water. It is not spread by coughing, sneezing, or being near an infected person.
People can be infected with hepatitis A and not show any symptoms. When they do occur, symptoms of hepatitis A may include:
Other associated signs and symptoms may include:
- light-colored stools,
- dark yellow urine, and
- yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin (known as jaundice).
What Is the Treatment for Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A usually gets better within a few weeks without specific treatment and does not cause long-term complications. As such, management of symptoms involves:
- drinking plenty of liquids, and
- eating healthy foods.
Medications may be used if needed to help relieve symptoms. Discuss any medications, vitamins, alternative medications, or supplements with your doctor, as some of these can be harmful to the liver while you are recovering. It is also important to avoid alcohol until you have completely recovered from hepatitis A.
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Liver Blood TestsLiver blood tests are used to check the levels and function of liver enzymes in the blood called AST and ALT or aminotransferases in the blood. Symptoms of elevated or high liver enzymes in the blood include fever, abdominal pain, poor appetite, itching, and nausea. Normal levels of liver enzymes in blood are caused by liver diseases caused by drugs, for example, acetaminophen (Tylenol), pain medications, and statins. Less common causes of abnormal levels of ALT or AST levels in the blood are alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver diseases (NASH), hepatitis, and alcoholism. Normal levels of ALT ranges from about 7-56 units/liter, and 10-40 units/liters for AST. Elevated (high) and low liver enzymes elevated levels of AST and ALT may signify the level of liver damage the person has. A blood sample is sent to the laboratory for measurement. Usually, you doctor will have the results interpreted within a few hours to days. Liver blood tests are used to check normal, elevated (high), and low blood levels of liver enzymes (AST and ALT or aminotransferases). Symptoms of elevated levels of liver enzymes are fever, abdominal pain, poor appetite, and nausea. Drugs, for example, acetaminophen (Tylenol), pain drugs, and statins caused high levels of liver enzymes. Less common causes are NASH, hepatitis, and alcoholism.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.