An AutoImmune Disease That Attacks The Liver – What Is It?

As the title suggests, in this article, we will be discussing the condition called Autoimmune Hepatitis. As the name suggests, this condition is an autoimmune disease which affects the liver. In a normal individual, the immune system makes lymphocytes and antibodies to fight disease causing antigens. However, in the case of an autoimmune disease, the immune system starts attacking the body itself by producing autoantibodies which attack the individual’s cells and organs.

In autoimmune hepatitis, the organ in question is the liver. The autoantibodies start attacking the liver and this results in liver damage and hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).

What are the different types of autoimmune hepatitis?

There are two types of this disease that have been identified: Type 1 and Type 2. Both the types are said to be rare in occurrence. Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis is more commonly seen when compared to Type 2. It is seen more in women aged between 15 and 40 years, although people of any age or gender can get it. Type 2 is usually common among children, especially girls aged between 2 years and 14 years.

Is autoimmune hepatitis common?

It is a rare disease, some studies in northern European countries indicate that the disease is found in about 10-24 people per 100,000. It has also been noted that autoimmune hepatitis is more common among natives of Alaska; about 43 people per 100,000 were found to have the disease. That said, the disease can affect people of all races and ethnicities at any age and the disease is more common in girls and women when compared to boys and men.

What are the symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis?

If the symptoms of the Liver  disease are present, they can range from either mild to severe symptoms. In some patients with autoimmune hepatitis, the symptoms are not clearly seen.

Those that display symptoms have the following commonly:

Tiredness, pain in joints, lack of appetite, nausea, liver pain, jaundice (yellowing of whites of the eyes and skin), passing dark coloured urine, passing light coloured stools. Sometimes rashes, vitiligo, acne, or psoriasis also occur.

For those who have the disease but do not display any symptoms, doctors may take the help of blood tests to detect problems in the liver. The lack of display of symptoms continues till they show up as complications like Liver cirrhosis or liver failure. At this time, the symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, fluid build up in abdomen, swelling of feet, ankles (oedema), jaundice.

What causes autoimmune hepatitis?

It is still not clear as to what causes the disease. There are studies that indicate that specific genes could trigger autoimmune diseases in some people. These genes could be triggered by environmental factors which cause the immune system to attack their own body, in this case, the liver.

What is the treatment for autoimmune hepatitis?

Since it is an autoimmune disease, the main treatment is to decrease the activity of the immune system, so that it will decrease its attack on the liver. Doctors usually prescribe corticosteroids such as prednisone or prednisolone. There is no cure for autoimmune hepatitis, howeverLiver damage treatmentcan help manage the symptoms and prevent damage to the liver.

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