Not everyone who has hepatitis A will experience symptoms, however when symptoms appear, they tend to occur between 2-6 weeks after exposure to the hepatitis A virus. The symptoms may vary with age and in severity. Generally, children are less likely to have symptoms than adults and the symptoms are more severe in adults.
A most common sign of hepatitis A is jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eye), which is caused by an excess number of a chemical called “bilirubin” in the blood. Normally, bilirubin passes through the liver and is excreted as bile through the intestines. However, when the liver is injured or damaged, it was not able to function properly. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up faster than the liver can break it down and pass it from the body.
Although this is an obvious sign, there are other common signs and symptoms of hepatitis A. These include:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle pain
- Sudden fever
- Dark-colored urine
- Abdominal discomfort, especially in the area of your liver
- Nausea and vomiting
The symptoms may last for up to several months. Talk to your doctor if your condition doesn’t get well within a couple of months.
While hepatitis A is not usually a serious illness but it’s important to get it properly diagnosed as it can cause a more serious condition such as hepatitis C (a more serious type of viral infection) or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).
Once you have recovered from hepatitis A, you are usually immune from it and you will never catch the virus again.