Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In chronic hepatitis, liver inflammation continues for at least six months. This condition may be mild, causing relatively little damage, or more serious, causing many liver cells to be destroyed. Some cases lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
Viruses are the most common cause of chronic hepatitis. Viruses that cause hepatitis include:
Hepatitis B and C. These viruses cause two-thirds of all cases of chronic hepatitis. People infected with hepatitis C have the greatest risk of developing chronic hepatitis. Both of these viruses usually begin with mild symptoms. Over time, perhaps a decade or more, both may lead to the serious complication of cirrhosis due to ongoing destruction of liver cells and resultant scarring. A minority of patients with cirrhosis develop liver cancer over time.
Hepatitis D. Hepatitis D infects only patients already infected with hepatitis B, and it generally results in a flare of active hepatitis.
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