Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 07:57 am
What is Autoimmune Hepatitis?
Quick Jump Table
Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare, serious condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the liver and causes inflammation. It can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure if it isn’t treated. There are two forms of autoimmune hepatitis disease.
- Type one (classic) autoimmune hepatitis is the most common form. This mostly affects young women and is often associated with other autoimmune diseases.
- Type two autoimmune hepatitis is less common and affects girls aged between two and 14.
What causes autoimmune hepatitis?
The body’s immune system normally attacks bacteria, viruses, and other invading organisms. However, if it attacks the body’s own cells, the response is called autoimmunity. This causes autoimmune hepatitis, which can lead to long-term inflammation and liver damage. A person’s genetic make-up, environmental factors, or prior infections can all play a role in causing autoimmune hepatitis conditions.
What are the 10 signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis?
Autoimmune hepatitis symptoms are often minor. When symptoms do occur, they commonly include:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Aching joints
- Dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Pale stools
- Absence of menstruation
More severe complications can include abdominal fluid and mental confusion. With proper treatment, it’s possible to enjoy years of remission without symptoms and healthy liver function.
How is autoimmune hepatitis diagnosed?
Autoimmune hepatitis often occurs suddenly. It may initially feel like a mild case of the flu. Doctors use liver function blood tests to diagnose autoimmune hepatitis. A liver biopsy is usually performed after review by hospital specialists. This is when a tiny sample of liver tissue is removed with a needle for examination in a laboratory or diagnostic centre.
Who all are at higher risk for autoimmune hepatitis?
Females are at highest risk, particularly those aged between 15 and 40. Many people with this disease also have other autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid gland), ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the colon), vitiligo (patchy loss of skin pigmentation), or Sjogren’s syndrome (dry eyes and dry mouth). People with a family history of autoimmune conditions or who have a pre-existing autoimmune disease may be more likely to develop this type of hepatitis.
How is autoimmune hepatitis treated?
Autoimmune hepatitis can be a lifelong condition and can be acute (short-term) or chronic. People with the condition should work with a doctor to monitor their symptoms and prevent serious complications. With regular check-ups and medication, many people with autoimmune hepatitis can enter remission. Treatment aims to suppress the over-active immune system and stop it from attacking the liver. It may include regular blood tests and frequent doctor visits in the early stages to ensure the body is responding well to treatment.
In rare, severe situations, acute autoimmune hepatitis may progress to liver failure. Prompt assessment and management by liver health specialists is required. Treatment options for autoimmune hepatitis include corticosteroids and other immunosuppressant medications, as well as a lifestyle that promotes healthy liver function. With early and treatment, autoimmune hepatitis can usually be controlled.
Chronic inflammation can cause ongoing liver injury over months or years, which may progress to scarring and liver cirrhosis. If not treated effectively, the affected tissue can become scarred and liver function can decline. Lifelong medication use may be required to keep the body’s autoimmune response under control and preserve liver health.
In rare situations, autoimmune inflammation may progress despite medical treatment. If severe liver damage occurs, a liver transplant may be the best option.
How to prevent autoimmune hepatitis?
It’s important to live a healthy lifestyle that helps protect the liver. Eating a healthy, low-fat diet and getting regular exercise are always important. You should also limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day, if at all. If you have experienced significant liver damage, your doctor will probably advise you to abstain from alcohol.
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