What is chronic hepatitis?
Chronic hepatitis is inflammation (swelling) of the liver that lasts for 6 months or longer. Chronic hepatitis usually develops from acute hepatitis Acute Hepatitis Acute hepatitis is inflammation (swelling) of your liver that comes on quickly and goes away quickly. Acute hepatitis sometimes becomes chronic hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis lasts a long time... read more but you may not know you had acute hepatitis.
Usually, chronic hepatitis is caused by the hepatitis B or C virus or certain drugs
Most people have no symptoms, but some people may feel a little sick, tired, or not hungry
Sometimes, chronic hepatitis can cause serious problems over time, such as cirrhosis Cirrhosis of the Liver Your liver is a football-sized organ on the right side of your belly, just below your ribs. It has many important jobs: To make a liquid (bile) that helps your body digest fat To process nutrients... read more
Chronic hepatitis can last for years
Doctors can treat chronic hepatitis with medicine
What causes chronic hepatitis?
Chronic hepatitis is usually caused by one of the hepatitis viruses, especially hepatitis B and C.
Chronic hepatitis can also be caused by:
Some kinds of medicine, especially if you take them for a long time
Certain diseases, such as alcoholic hepatitis Alcohol-Related Liver Disease Your liver is a football-sized organ on the right side of your belly, just below your ribs. It has many important jobs: To make a liquid (bile) that helps your body digest fat To process nutrients... read more , fatty liver disease Fatty Liver Fatty liver is an abnormal accumulation of certain fats (triglycerides) inside liver cells. People with fatty liver may feel tired or have mild abdominal discomfort but otherwise have no symptoms... read more , and others
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes chronic hepatitis in some people.
What are the symptoms of chronic hepatitis?
About 2 out of 3 people with chronic hepatitis develop it gradually and have no symptoms until they develop cirrhosis Cirrhosis of the Liver Your liver is a football-sized organ on the right side of your belly, just below your ribs. It has many important jobs: To make a liquid (bile) that helps your body digest fat To process nutrients... read more (scarring of the liver).
You could have symptoms such as:
Feeling a little sick, tired, and less hungry
Sometimes, a mild fever and pain in your upper belly area
Swelling from fluid building up in your belly area (ascites Ascites Ascites is the accumulation of protein-containing (ascitic) fluid within the abdomen. Many disorders can cause ascites, but the most common is high blood pressure in the veins that bring blood... read more )
Trouble thinking clearly
Bad-smelling, greasy looking, light-colored stool (poop)
Autoimmune symptoms like joint pain and, for women, no periods
If you have chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C with cirrhosis, you may develop liver cancer Liver Cancer Your liver is a football-sized organ on the right side of your belly, just below your ribs. It helps you digest food and makes substances that help your body work. There are 2 kinds of liver... read more .
How can doctors tell if I have chronic hepatitis?
Do blood tests
Take a small sample of your liver to look at under a microscope (biopsy)
How do doctors treat chronic hepatitis?
Your doctor will treat your chronic hepatitis differently depending on the cause:
If a certain medicine is the cause, your doctor will have you stop taking the medicine
If hepatitis B, C, or E is the cause, your doctor will give you medicine to treat the virus
If you’re having an autoimmune reaction Autoimmune Diseases The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually attacks invading bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. With an autoimmune... read more , your doctor will give you corticosteroids to decrease the inflammation in the liver
If you have severe liver failure Liver Failure Your liver is an organ in the upper right part of your belly. The liver does many important things: Breaks down chemicals and medicines Makes digestive fluid called bile Produces many important... read more , you may need a liver transplant Liver Transplantation Liver transplantation is the surgical removal of a healthy liver or sometimes a part of a liver from a living person and then its transfer into a person whose liver no longer functions. (See... read more
Doctors will also treat any complications your chronic hepatitis has caused.