What is autoimmune hepatitis?
Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare, chronic autoimmune disease characterized by liver inflammation that occurs when the body’s immune system turns against its liver cells.
Untreated, autoimmune hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. A liver transplant may be required.
There are two types of autoimmune hepatitis:
- Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis: the most common type of the disease, in general
- Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis: the most common type in children and young people
What causes autoimmune hepatitis?
Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the body’s immune system, which ordinarily attacks viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, targets its own liver. This can lead to chronic inflammation and serious damage to liver cells.
The exact cause of why this happens is unclear, but genetic and environmental factors appear to interact over time to trigger the disease.
What are the symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis?
The following are the common signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Enlarged liver
- Abnormal blood vessels on the skin (spider angiomas)
- Skin rashes
- Joint pain
- Loss of menstruation
How is autoimmune hepatitis diagnosed?
After and thorough clinical evaluation and a detailed patient and family history, a blood test and liver biopsy can confirm a diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis.
What are the available treatments for autoimmune hepatitis?
The goal of autoimmune hepatitis treatment is to slow or stop the immune system attack on the liver. Medications can be used to help accomplish this, including:
- Azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran)
Liver transplant may also be a course of action in the most severe of cases.
Where can I find out more about autoimmune hepatitis?