Autoimmune Hepatitis

What is Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)?

As the name states it, Autoimmune Hepatitis is an autoimmune liver inflammation.  The constant inflammation leads to scarring and can ultimately lead to cirrhosis. There are two main types of autoimmune hepatitis. Type 1 is the most common and can occur at any age. This type is very common in people who have another autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, hemolytic anemia, ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease. Type 2 is mainly seen in children but can also happen in adults. Autoimmune Hepatitis in general is about 4 times more common in females than in males. 

What are the symptoms of Autoimmune Hepatitis?

  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Mild flu-like symptoms
  • Abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Spiderlike blood vessels in the skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluid buildup in the abdomen
  • Pale or gray-colored stools
  • Dark urine
  • Confusion 

What are the complications of Autoimmune Hepatitis?

Complications start appearing when the condition goes untreated for a long time. Most common complications are the following: 

  • Esophageal Varices: due to inflammation the circulation through the portal vein in your liver is blocked. Therefore, the blood starts backing up into the vessels in the stomach and esophagus. Due to the backup pressure, these vessels are prone to bleeding. 
  • Ascites: is a fluid buildup in the abdomen. This can cause difficulties with breathing. 
  • Liver failure: due to extensive scarring and damage to the liver, it stops working adequately. 
  • Liver cancer: extensive damage can lead to cancer due to the body constantly trying to regenerate the death of liver cells. 

How is Autoimmune Hepatitis diagnosed?

Different laboratory tests and imaging tests can be ordered to diagnose this condition. To check for damage to your liver your health professional can send a liver function test. Autoimmune antibodies can also be sent to confirm that the disease is autoimmune in origin. The coagulation panel can tell you how well your clotting proteins are working since these are created in the liver. A CT scan can be ordered to check the size and shape of the liver and can also show some evidence of cirrhosis. Ultimately, a biopsy can also be performed to confirm what kind of liver disease is present. 

How is Autoimmune Hepatitis treated?

The goal of treatment is to slow down the progression of the disease.  Due to the autoimmune nature of the disease, medications that lower the immune system activity are recommended such as corticosteroids and immune system suppressors. The steroid Prednisone and the immune suppressor azathioprine are the most common medications prescribed for this condition. After treatment is started, it will take between 6 months to a couple of years until the disease can go into remission. If the condition is so severe that it has led to liver failure then a liver transplant is recommended. For more information about Autoimmune Hepatitis visit this website.

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