Chronic hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, which lasts for more than 6 months. Some cases of chronic hepatitis do not involve liver damage. But, sometimes chronic hepatitis can lead to destruction of liver cells and serious consequences such as liver failure and cirrhosis.
Chronic Hepatitis Causes:
- Hepatitis B and C viruses primarily causes chronic hepatitis
- Autoimmune diseases – where the body destroys its own liver cells
- Some medications such as isoniazid, methyldopa, macrodantin, Phenytoin – can cause chronic hepatitis
- Metabolic disorders such as Wilson’s disease, Sarcoidosis, Hemachromatosis can cause chronic hepatitis.
Chronic Hepatitis Caused Due to Viruses:
- Chronic hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). Chronic hepatitis B can result in liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure. This virus is transmitted through sharing of needles and unprotected sexual contacted.
- Chronic hepatitis C: Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). This disease can result in liver cancer, liver failure and scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood transfusion and sharing of needles.
Symptoms of Chronic Hepatitis:
The symptoms of chronic hepatitis are:
- Jaundice, which causes yellowing of skin and whites of the eyes
- Upper Abdominal pain
- Weight Loss
- Joint pain and muscle weakness
- Lack of appetite
- Blood tests, liver function tests, liver biopsy, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scan may be conducted to test for chronic hepatitis.
Chronic Hepatitis Treatment:
- Chronic hepatitis B is treated with medications such as Interferon, Telbivudine, Entecavir, Lamivudine, Adefovir dipivoxil . If the liver is severeley damaged, liver transplantation is necessary
- Chronic hepatitis C is treated with ribavirin, Interferon and other anti-viral medications. Liver transplantation is necessary in severe cases
- For autoimmune chronic hepatitis, medications which suppress the immune system are used
- Alcohol should be avoided to prevent further damage to the liver
- A healthy diet and proper fitness can help in overcoming fatigue
To prevent chronic hepatitis, vaccinations of hepatitis B and C are necessary. Using sterile needles and avoiding unprotected sex can help in preventing chronic hepatitis.