Chronic Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. There are a variety of causes of hepatitis and multiple forms of the condition-hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Within those types of hepatitis, the condition is defined even further by whether it is acute hepatitis or chronic hepatitis.
Acute hepatitis means that the infection is new, while chronic hepatitis is diagnosed if a person's body is unable to rid itself of the virus after six months. The Department of Health & Human Services estimates more than 4 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis - either hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Over time, those infected with hepatitis can experience a full range of negative health effects due to elevated liver enzymes, including both liver damage and liver failure. If your physician believes you have chronic hepatitis B or C, you will be tested for hepatitis, typically using blood tests, imaging and/or a liver biopsy. 

Chronic Hepatitis B Symptoms and Treatment

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is transmitted through bodily fluids, including blood and semen. Those who have sexual contact with an infected partner or who share needles or medical equipment with someone who is infected are at a higher risk. Infants with an infected mother also are at an increased risk for hepatitis B. Symptoms of hepatitis B may include:

  • Abdominal or joint pain
  • Abnormally colored bowel movements
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Excess fatigue
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or the eyes)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting  

For those with chronic hepatitis B, symptoms may dissipate or disappear altogether for months or even years. Patients who have chronic hepatitis B are monitored regularly for symptoms related to liver disease and may receive treatment including medication therapy. 

Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms and Treatment

Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is a bloodborne virus. Infants born to infected mothers are at a high risk of developing the condition, as are people who share needles or medical equipment. 

Up to 85% of those diagnosed with hepatitis C develop chronic infection, which can result in serious health issues. 

In many cases, those who are exposed to hepatitis C may not develop symptoms or will develop only mild symptoms. Symptoms of the condition are similar to those of hepatitis B but may also include chronic fatigue and depression. 

Over time, the condition may cause chronic liver disease, which can lead to cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. Someone with chronic hepatitis C typically receives medication therapy, which often includes an eight- to 12-week course of an antiviral medication that can cure the condition.