Hepatitis and Liver Diseases
At GI Care for Kids, our doctors frequently evaluate liver diseases. Many children and young adults are referred to our offices due to "hepatitis." Hepatitis means that there is inflammation of the liver. Just like "arthritis," meaning inflammation in the joint, hepatitis can be caused by many things and is often NOT contagious. Hepatitis may be detected due to the presence of symptoms/signs such as fatigue, jaundice, yellow eyes, dark urine, poor appetite, abdominal pain, or pale stools. In other cases, inflammation in the liver is found because of routine blood work.
There are many potential causes of hepatitis. Often doctors first think about infections like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Epstein-Barr viruses. There are many other infections that can cause hepatitis. In addition, there are a number of noninfectious causes of elevated liver tests, including autoimmune hepatitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, alpha-one antitrypsin deficiency, fatty liver, gallstones, drug/toxin-related liver disease (including alcohol and acetaminophen overdoses), Wilson disease, celiac disease, iron overload, and some muscle diseases.
It is very important to realize that having hepatitis does not mean your child will automatically be spreading hepatitis to other children. While Hepatitis A can be transmitted to others through contact with body fluids, other forms of infectious hepatitis are not so easily transmitted. For example, Hepatitis B virus and Hepatitis C virus are only transmitted through contact with an infected person's blood or through sexual activity. You cannot be infected with the Hepatitis B or C virus by touching someone, playing with them, sharing a classroom with them or visiting their home or work.
In many types of liver disease, the liver will recover without specific treatment. However, many liver diseases require specific treatment in order to improve. To evaluate liver diseases, blood tests are necessary. Sometimes it is necessary to do a series of blood tests over several days or weeks in order to diagnose the cause of the liver inflammation. Often, an ultrasound of the liver may also be needed. This is a simple test that does not involve needles or radiation but may be able to locate gallstones or cysts. When persistent liver problems occur, a liver biopsy may be recommended to further evaluate the severity and the reason for the problem.
All of our doctors are experts in pediatric liver diseases. In addition, Dr. Jay Hochman and Dr. Jeffery Lewis have special interests in treating Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and have participated in national research studies with some of the latest medications for these diseases.
As always, in order to help your child, please make sure you bring all previous tests regarding your child's liver problem to our office.