Hepatitis is a term used to describe an infection or inflammation of the liver. Though the disease often causes symptoms, a child can be asymptomatic and have liver disease for a very long time before parents or physicians become aware of it. It is important to identify liver disease and inflammation as soon as possible to monitor the condition and determine whether medical treatment may be necessary to treat it.
Did you know…
that not all forms of hepatitis are highly contagious? While it is true that Hepatitis A can be spread to other children and adults through contact with infected bodily fluids, Hepatitis B and C are not as easily transmitted. In fact, the latter two are only contagious via sexual contact or contact with an infected person’s blood. That means your child cannot contract or spread Hepatitis B or C by playing with or going to school with other children.
Hepatitis is often caused by a viral infection after coming in contact with the disease or being born to a mother with hepatitis. However, autoimmune conditions, gallstones, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and even celiac disease can also cause liver inflammation and abnormal liver tests. It is important to note that many children are immune to Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A if they receive their recommended vaccinations in the U.S.
A child with hepatitis or liver disease may develop obvious symptoms that indicate an inflammation of the liver. These include yellowing of the eyes, darkened urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin), and pale colored stools. Fatigue, abdominal pain and diminished appetite are also common. Some children will have acute cognitive changes that can be noted in deteriorating academic performance. In some cases, however, hepatitis produces little or no symptoms and is instead detected only through routine blood testing.
If your child is referred to our office due to liver disease, blood testing, ultrasound and other diagnostic tests can help us evaluate the cause of the disease and determine the most effective course of treatment. Many forms of liver disease improve on their own with minimal to no medical intervention. In self limiting cases, periodic blood testing is used to monitor a child’s recovery until liver inflammation has subsided.
In other cases, hepatitis may progress to a chronic condition that requires ongoing medical treatment and lifestyle modifications. If a child experiences persistent liver inflammation or signs of decreased liver function, a biopsy may be necessary to determine the severity of the disease and additional steps that may necessary to treat the problem.