Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Hepatitis may cause liver problems

Hepatitis may cause liver problems
beginning of content

Hepatitis

3-minute read

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an illness that inflames and damages your liver. It affects the liver’s ability to do its job, which includes making proteins and clearing the blood of unwanted impurities. Hepatitis is usually caused by an infection.

What are the types of hepatitis?

There are many types of hepatitis which cause symptoms that range from mild to very serious.

Five types of viral hepatitis are:

  • hepatitis A — an illness that can last from a few weeks to 6 months
  • hepatitis B — a serious infection that can lead to liver damage
  • hepatitis C — a disease that is now easily treatable
  • hepatitis D — a disease that only affects people infected with hepatitis B, and is a rarer type of hepatitis in Australia
  • hepatitis E — a short-term illness that can be severe in pregnant women, but is rare in Australia

There are other types of hepatitis that are not infectious, including:

  • autoimmune hepatitis
  • alcoholic hepatitis

Having one type of hepatitis doesn’t stop you from getting other types.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Depending on the type of hepatitis you have, the symptoms may include:

You can also have hepatitis without any symptoms.

What causes hepatitis?

Hepatitis A infection is spread by direct contact with a person who has the illness, or from consuming food, drink or ice contaminated with the faeces (poo) of an infected person. Hepatitis A infection in Australians is commonly acquired while travelling overseas to countries where the disease is common, so check with your doctor if you need travel vaccinations.

There have been a number of outbreaks of hepatitis A across Australia caused by people eating imported contaminated frozen berries. When this happens, the affected brands of frozen berries are recalled, and the Australian Government Department of Health issues health warnings.

Hepatitis B spreads through contact with the bodily fluids (such as blood, sweat, saliva or semen) of a person who has it. You can have hepatitis B without knowing it and may be a carrier.

Hepatitis C is usually transferred by blood, such as between intravenous drug users, or between a mother and her baby.

How is hepatitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you for signs of hepatitis. Infection with hepatitis A, B and C can be confirmed with blood tests.

You can talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk of being infected with hepatitis through contact with bodily fluids or medical treatments. Also discuss prevention if you’re planning to travel to a country where you might consume contaminated food or water.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

What is hepatitis? | Hepatitis Australia

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Viruses, alcohol, drugs and immune system disorders can cause hepatitis.

Read more on Hepatitis Australia website

What is Hepatitis C? | Symptoms & Signs | Hepatitis NSW

Hep C is an easily-cured liver infection, caused by the hepatitis C virus. Learn more about possible symptoms, risks & how to stay hep C free here.

Read more on Hepatitis NSW website

Hepatitis B virus infection in infants and children | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

What is hepatitis B? Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Hepatitis A | Hepatitis Australia

Basic information about hepatitis A in Australia

Read more on Hepatitis Australia website

liver health | Hepatitis Australia

Your liver is an essential organ that performs hundreds of functions every day. Find out more about your liver and how it is affected by hepatitis.

Read more on Hepatitis Australia website

Hepatitis A in Australia

Infection with the hepatitis A virus can cause an illness which affects the liver.

Read more on AIHW – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website

What Causes Liver Damage & Disease? | Hep C & Liver Health | Hepatitis NSW

Liver damage & disease is caused by viral infections, as well as certain dietary & lifestyle habits. Learn about what causes liver damage & disease here.

Read more on Hepatitis NSW website

For friends and family | Hepatitis Australia

Supporting your friend or family member who has hepatitis

Read more on Hepatitis Australia website

Hep C tests - Haemophilia Foundation Australia

An explanation of hepatitis C tests and what test results mean. Includes personal stories of people with bleeding disorders and hepatitis C.

Read more on Haemophilia Foundation Australia website

Hepatitis C TINO : Tune In Not Out

Hepatitis C is spread via blood-to-blood contact. Discover more about transmission and prevention.

Read more on Tune In Not Out website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo