Liver Disease and Hepatitis

Hepatitis is a term used to describe an infection or inflammation of the liver. Though the disease often causes symptoms, a child who is asymptomatic can 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes hepatitis in 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, and even celiac disease can also cause liver inflammation and abnormal liver tests. It is important to note that many children are immune to most forms of viral hepatitis thanks to routine vaccination in the U.S.

What are the symptoms of a pediatric liver disease?

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. In some cases, however, hepatitis produces little or no symptoms and is instead detected only through routine blood testing.

How will pediatric gastroenterologist approach my child’s liver disease?

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 medical intervention. Instead, 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, a biopsy may be necessary to determine the severity of the disease and additional steps that may necessary to treat the problem.