What is Viral hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis refers to a range of conditions caused by infection with viruses. There are several types of viral hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute viral hepatitis is caused by a virus and lasts for a short period of time, such as during the course of the flu. Chronic viral hepatitis can be caused by one or more viruses. It can also be caused by a combination of viruses.

Viral hepatitis can affect anyone, but it is most common among:

  • People with chronic liver disease
  • People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or obesity
  • People who use illicit drugs
  • People who are sexually active
  • People who work with animals

Viral hepatitis can be managed with medication. If it is not treated, it can lead to complications, including liver damage or cirrhosis.

What are the symptoms of viral hepatitis?

Symptoms of viral hepatitis vary depending on the type of virus that is causing it. The symptoms of acute viral hepatitis usually resolve once the infection has passed.

The symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis may not be noticeable until the liver is damaged. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

The symptoms of acute viral hepatitis may be more severe than those of chronic viral hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis can also cause inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas.

How is viral hepatitis diagnosed?

There is no single test to diagnose viral hepatitis. Your doctor will likely start by asking about your symptoms and medical history. They will also do a physical exam.

You may also have blood tests to check your blood for signs of viral hepatitis.

How is viral hepatitis treated?

Treatment for viral hepatitis depends on the severity of your condition. The treatment for acute viral hepatitis is to use antiviral medication, such as ribavirin.

You may also need to take other medications, such as corticosteroids or antibiotics.

If you have chronic viral hepatitis, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes. This may include:

  • A diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates
  • Regular exercise
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption

How can I prevent viral hepatitis?

The best way to prevent viral hepatitis is to avoid exposure to the virus that causes it. You can also take some steps to avoid contracting it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:

  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The vaccines are given in three doses. You’ll receive the first dose in childhood, the second dose between ages 9 and 12, and the third dose between ages 16 and 18.
  • Avoid sex without a condom or another barrier method.
  • Use a condom or other barrier method during sex with a new partner every time you have sex.
  • Avoid sharing needles or syringes with someone who has hepatitis.
  • Avoid sharing injection equipment, such as hypodermic needles, needles for tattoos, or insulin pens and syringes.
  • Take precautions around animals, such as wearing gloves when handling pets.
  • Keep your hands clean when handling food and prevent food-borne illnesses.

What is the long-term outlook for viral hepatitis?

The outlook for people with viral hepatitis depends on the condition that is causing it.

The outlook for acute viral conditions, such as acute hepatitis A and hepatitis B, is usually good. Acute hepatitis A usually clears up within a few weeks. Acute hepatitis B may last for months, but it usually clears up within a year.

The outlook for chronic viral conditions, such as chronic hepatitis B and C, depends on the underlying cause.

Chronic viral conditions that are not treated can lead to:

  • Cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver
  • Hepatitis D, which is caused by a virus
  • Hepatitis F, which is a virus that causes hepatitis
  • HIV, which is a virus that causes AIDS
  • Liver cancer, which is cancer of the liver

Living with viral hepatitis

You can manage your viral hepatitis with a combination of antiviral medication and lifestyle changes.

The sooner you start treatment, the better your outlook.

The outlook depends on how severe your condition is, such as whether you have chronic hepatitis.

Out of pocket costs

Your insurance will cover any treatment for viral hepatitis. However, you may have to pay some costs out of pocket.

Disease management program

If you have chronic viral conditions, you may have a disease management program (DMP). A DMP is a program that helps you manage the underlying condition. You can also receive counseling and support from a healthcare professional.


Medicare covers the cost of certain hepatitis treatments, such as ribavirin.

Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D is an optional prescription drug plan. It helps cover the cost of certain prescription drugs, such as ribavirin.

Medicare Advantage (Part C)

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies. They cover the costs of prescription drugs and other healthcare services.

Medicare Supplement (Medigap)

Medicare Supplement plans help cover the costs of Medicare Part A and Part B.

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs)

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) help cover the cost of prescription drugs.

Out-of-pocket costs

Your out-of-pocket costs depend on your health plan and the plan’s formulary. It’s a list of certain prescription drugs that your plan covers.

Your costs will depend on the formulary you choose. You may have copayments and coinsurance.

Medicare Part D Drug Plans (PDPs)


Viral hepatitis is a potentially serious condition. Left untreated, it can lead to liver damage or cirrhosis.

If you have hepatitis, your outlook is good if you receive treatment. Your symptoms should go away within a few weeks.

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