The five different kinds of hepatitis viruses can sometimes cause confusion. This article will help explain the differences between hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
Hepatitis is, in all cases, an inflammation of the liver which, if left untreated, may lead to liver failure and other complications. There are two main categories of hepatitis virus: acute and chronic. Acute hepatitis lasts up to six months, and chronic hepatitis lasts longer. The five different kinds of hepatitis (A, B, C, D, and E), refer to the different viruses that cause hepatitis.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is the virus found in the feces of infected individuals. Most commonly, HAV is spread by eating or drinking any food or drink that has been contaminated with the HAV virus. Contamination often occurs because of poor hygiene and sanitation practices, such as not washing one’s hands or not properly cooking food. Symptoms of hepatitis A can include nausea, diarrhea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes; pictured below), and fever. Infections of hepatitis A can lead to liver failure, but usually resolve without any treatment needed. Hepatitis A can be prevented via vaccination.
Hepatitis A, B, and E have visible symptoms, and usually resolve themselves without additional treatment. They can, however, lead to liver failure, and hepatitis E is known to be more severe in pregnant women. Hepatitis C is often asymptomatic, but commonly leads to chronic disease which subsequently can lead to cirrhosis. Hepatitis D has the same symptoms as hepatitis B, but further complications can develop which lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.