What is Autoimmune Hepatitis?

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utoimmune hepatitis is a disease in which an immune system overreaction causes the body to attack the liver. As a result, the liver becomes inflamed. Fewer than 200,000 cases per year take place. Fatigue, abdominal discomfort, and joint pain are among the most common symptoms.

Over time, autoimmune hepatitis develops a number of more severe symptoms. These include enlarged liver, skin rashes, and more intense pain. Yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes indicates reduced liver function. Women may lose their menstrual periods entirely.

There are two distinct types of autoimmune hepatitis:

Type 1:

Can appear at any age and is common in those with autoimmune disorders.

Type 2:

Is most common in children and young people, though adults can develop it.

About 50% of people with type 1 autoimmune hepatitis have an existing autoimmune disorder. People with autoimmune hepatitis are vulnerable to serious complications including enlarged esophageal veins, fluid accumulation in the abdomen, liver cancer, and liver failure.

What Causes Autoimmune Hepatitis?

The precise cause of autoimmune hepatitis is not yet known. Research indicates that there is a genetic component to the disease. Over time, exposure to certain environmental factors makes a case of autoimmune hepatitis more likely.

Risk factors include:

  • Genetic predisposition to autoimmune hepatitis inherited from parents
  • A history of measles, herpes simplex, or Epstein-Barr virus infections
  • A history of other hepatitis infections, including hepatitis A, B, or C
  • A current autoimmune disease like celiac disease or Graves’ disease
  • Gender – women are more likely than men to experience the disorder

How is Autoimmune Hepatitis Diagnosed?

Blood tests help doctors to distinguish viral hepatitis from autoimmune hepatitis. If a blood test suggests autoimmune hepatitis, then a liver biopsy is performed to confirm the diagnosis. This consists of removing a very tiny sample of liver tissue through a needle and analyzing it.

It may take days or even a few weeks to complete a liver biopsy analysis, since it must be performed at a specialized medical lab. In addition to confirming the diagnosis, the test will also help your doctor determine the degree and type of organ damage.

How is Autoimmune Hepatitis Treated or Cured?

In general, the immune system’s assault on the liver does not stop without treatment. This can lead to long-term scarring of the liver and interfere with its function. As a result, it’s important to be proactive about seeing a doctor when you have any symptoms that may be related.

A combination of medications can be used to slow down the rate of immune system attacks on the liver. For some patients, this may halt progression of the disease entirely. Medication must be monitored closely by a doctor, but it can lead to complete remission.

Autoimmune Hepatitis Lifestyle Changes

A healthy, balanced diet is best for autoimmune disorders. Maintaining a healthy weight can help your liver to work more efficiently.

Patients should reduce or eliminate alcohol intake. Alcohol is processed through the liver and can accelerate cirrhosis (chronic damage and scarring) to it. For social drinkers, it may be easiest to discuss the condition with friends and family so there is less pressure to drink during holidays and celebrations.

Autoimmune Hepatitis Clinical Trials

The following clinical trial are the most up to date provided by Clinicaltrials.gov. If you would like us to feature some additional trials, please feel free to notify our team.

  • Canadian Network for Autoimmune Liver Disease
    on June 26, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Primary Bilary Cirrhosis (PBC);   Autoimmune Hepatitis;   Overlap SyndromeIntervention:   Other: Observational; no interventionSponsor:   University Health Network, TorontoRecruiting