Table of contents:
- Main symptoms
- How to confirm the diagnosis
- Possible causes of chronic hepatitis
- How the treatment is done
Chronic hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that lasts for more than six months and is most often caused by the hepatitis B virus. However, chronic hepatitis can also be caused by the hepatitis virus C and D, excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages or being a consequence of autoimmune diseases, for example.
Although in most cases, chronic hepatitis does not cause any obvious symptoms, and is often identified during routine exams, some people may experience some symptoms, such as general bad mood, decreased appetite or frequent tiredness for no reason apparent.
Still, even if it doesn't cause symptoms, hepatitis should always be treated, as if it continues to get worse, it can cause more serious complications such as cirrhosis or liver failure.Therefore, whenever there is a suspicion of a liver problem, it is advisable to consult a hepatologist to assess the presence of a problem and initiate the most appropriate treatment.
The symptoms of chronic hepatitis are progressive, appearing as liver inflammation occurs, the main ones being:
- Swollen belly;
- Redness in the hands;
- Yellow skin and eyes;
- Sensation of general malaise;
- Decreased appetite;
- Frequent tiredness for no reason;
- Constant low fever;
- Discomfort in the upper right side of the belly.
As the symptoms of hepatitis arise as inflammation occurs, it is more common for chronic hepatitis to be identified only during routine blood tests, with changes in the levels of TGP and TGO, gamma- GT (GGT), alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin.
How to confirm the diagnosis
If the doctor suspects chronic hepatitis, in addition to new more specific blood tests for liver enzymes and antibodies, he may also order imaging tests, such as ultrasound or computed tomography.
There are also situations where a biopsy may be ordered, in which a small sample of liver tissue is sent to the laboratory to try to confirm the cause of hepatitis or to try to understand the level of liver damage, helping to better adapt the treatment.
Possible causes of chronic hepatitis
In most cases, chronic hepatitis is caused by an infection with the Hepatitis B virus, but other relatively frequent causes include:
- Hepatitis C virus;
- Hepatitis D virus;
- Excessive alcohol consumption;
- Autoimmune diseases.
Although more rare, chronic hepatitis can also be caused by the use of certain types of medication, especially Isoniazid, Methyldopa, or Phenytoin. When this happens, it is usually enough to change the medication for the liver inflammation to improve.
How the treatment is done
Treatment for chronic hepatitis depends on the severity of liver damage and its causes. However, it is relatively common for treatment to begin with the use of some type of corticosteroid to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms, until the specific cause is known.
Once the cause has been identified, treatment must be adequate to cure the disease, whenever possible, and prevent complications from arising. Thus, in the case of hepatitis caused by hepatitis B or C viruses, the doctor may advise the use of some antiviral drugs, since if hepatitis is caused by an autoimmune disease, it is important to start treatment for this disease, and if it is caused due to excess alcohol or the use of medication, its use should be stopped.
At the same time, it may also be necessary to treat some complications that arise with increased inflammation, such as encephalopathy or accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.
In more severe cases, where liver damage is very advanced, a liver transplant is usually required. Understand how transplantation is performed and recovery.