What Is Autoimmune Hepatitis? PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 09 October 2009 10:16
Autoimmune hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is one in which a person's immune system attacks his or her own body for unknown reasons. The degree of liver inflammation can range from mild to deadly.

The cause of autoimmune hepatitis is unknown. It may be an isolated condition or may occur as part of another autoimmune disorder, such as systemic lupus erythematosus. Autoimmune hepatitis most often occurs in women between the ages of 15 and 40. While the condition is seen in men, it is eight times more common in women.

New research findings suggest that autoimmune disorders may be triggered by a transfer of cells between the fetus and the mother during pregnancy. The study involved women with Scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder involving the skin. These women have more fetal cells in their blood decades after a pregnancy than women who don't have Scleroderma. While further research is needed to substantiate these findings, the study does offer an explanation for the much higher incidence of autoimmune disorders in women than in men.

The outcome for autoimmune hepatitis is often unpredictable. A person may require lifelong therapy or the condition may go away on its own for long stretches of time. Autoimmune hepatitis can be treated with medications that stop the immune system from attacking the liver, including steroids, such as prednisone, and azathioprine. A liver transplant may be needed if medications don't work or the liver becomes very damaged.

Fatigue is probably the most common symptom of autoimmune hepatitis. Other symptoms include
  • an enlarged liver
  • jaundice
  • itching
  • skin rashes
  • joint pain
  • abdominal discomfort
  • spider angiomas, or abnormal blood vessels, on the skin
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • dark urine
  • pale or gray-colored stools

Regular physical examinations or liver biopsies and liver function blood tests are commonly used to monitor autoimmune hepatitis. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to your doctor. For more detailed reading on Autoimmune Hepatitis, visit The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) here, or at the MayoClinic.com, here. For a link back to the full article by Glenn Rosenberg, click here.
 
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