What is autoimmune hepatitis?

What is autoimmune hepatitis?
The exact cause of autoimmune hepatitis is unknown, but genetic factors influence the condition.

Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which occurs when the immune system directly attacks liver cells. There is currently no known specific cause for this disease, however, it is known that environmental and genetic factors influence its possible occurrence. 

In the case of this disease, it should be treated before it leads to cirrhosis or, over time, liver failure. However, the advantage over autoimmune hepatitis is that if it is detected early it can be regulated with treatments that inhibit the immune system.

However, in those cases where it is diagnosed at a more advanced stage or when it does not respond to treatments, a liver transplant can be considered. As for the types of autoimmune hepatitis, there are two of them:

  • Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis: this is the most common form of the disease, can occur at any age. and it is estimated that at least half of people with type 1 have other autoimmune disorders, such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis.
  • Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis is most often seen in children and young adults. 

Symptoms

In the case of autoimmune hepatitis, the symptoms may vary according to the patient, and some patients have little known signs, or none at all. However, there are some symptoms that are more common: 

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Liver enlargement
  • Abnormal blood vessels in the skin (arachniform angiomas)
  • Rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Absent menstrual periods

Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the immune system, which usually attacks viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens, attacks the liver. This attack on the liver can lead to chronic inflammation and severe damage to liver cells. (Via Mayoclinic)

The reasons why the human body and the immune system attacks itself are currently unknown, however, different studies show that genes, environmental factors and exposure to different viruses or medications may influence the possible development of this liver condition. 

As for a visit to the doctor, it is recommended to attend the moment you present signs that worry you. 

Ana Henríquez, editor
Fundahígado America Content Intern
Eugenia Jiménez Alvaréz, reviewer
Assistant to the Fundahígado América coordination
Bachelor in Biomedical Sciences

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