Viral Hepatitis (cont.)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Viral hepatitis facts
- Viral hepatitis definition and overview
- What are the common types of viral hepatitis?
- Who is at risk for viral hepatitis?
- What are the symptoms and signs of viral hepatitis?
- What is acute fulminant hepatitis?
- What is chronic viral hepatitis?
- How is viral hepatitis diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for viral hepatitis?
- How is viral hepatitis prevented?
- Hepatitis vaccinations
- What is the prognosis of viral hepatitis?
What is acute fulminant hepatitis?
Rarely, individuals with acute infections with HAV and HBV develop severe inflammation, and the liver fails (acute fulminant hepatitis). These patients are extremely ill with the symptoms of acute hepatitis already described and the additional problems of confusion or coma (due to the liver's failure to detoxify chemicals) and bruising or bleeding (due to a lack of blood clotting factors). In fact, up to 80% of people with acute fulminant hepatitis can die within days to weeks; therefore, it is fortunate that acute fulminant hepatitis is rare. For example, less than 0.5% of adults with acute infection with HBV will develop acute fulminant hepatitis, but the rate may be slightly higher in HCV.
What is chronic viral hepatitis?
Patients infected with HBV and HCV can develop chronic hepatitis. Doctors define chronic hepatitis as hepatitis that lasts longer than 6 months. In chronic hepatitis, the viruses live and multiply in the liver for years or decades. For unknown reasons, these patients' immune systems are unable to eradicate the viruses, and the viruses cause chronic inflammation of the liver. Chronic hepatitis can lead to the development over time of extensive liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver failure, and liver cancer. Liver failure from chronic hepatitis C infection is the most common reason for liver transplantation in the U.S.. Patients with chronic viral hepatitis can transmit the infection to others with blood or body fluids (for example, sharing needles, sexually, and infrequently by organ donation) as well as infrequently by transmission from mother to newborn.
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