Chronic hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It is believed that the inflammation is the result of an autoimmune reaction due to which the body produces antibodies against its own tissues.
In rare cases, chronic hepatitis may be due to overdose with some drugs (eg paracetas) or alcohol. The cause is sometimes unknown.
In initial stages the symptoms appear and disappear, but then gradually become worse and become increasingly pronounced with years.
The main symptoms are fatigue, lack of appetite, yellowing of the skin and sclera (see the jaundice article), and poor digestion after fatty foods or alcoholic beverages. Pain in the joints can also occur.
Sometimes, chronic hepatitis develops so slowly that there are no symptoms in the initial stages (although the liver is damaged). In such cases, the disease can be detected by routine blood tests.
Chronic hepatitis is a serious disease because it has a negative effect on the functioning of the liver over several years. The main danger is that the patient will eventually get cirrhosis of the liver.
What to do?
If you get a jaundice talk to your doctor, especially if you had acute hepatitis B before. The doctor will diagnose the disease (if it is present) by physical examination, blood tests, and perhaps the liver biopsy (in the hospital).
Above all, avoid all substances that could exacerbate liver inflammation. This particularly applies to alcohol and paracetamol, which must be completely eliminated. Many medicines sold without a prescription contain small amounts of paracetamol, so never take tablets or pills unless you have previously consulted your doctor. Although liver damage is usually irreversible, medications can alleviate the symptoms and slow down the process of further damage. Your doctor will probably prescribe corticosteroid and other medications and, with frequent examinations and blood tests, monitor the symptoms and at times discover and treat possible complications, e.g. cirrhosis of the liver.