Autoimmune Hepatitis — Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Summary: Autoimmune Hepatitis is a liver disease and this disease occurs when the cells of the liver are attacked by the body’s immune system.
Autoimmune Hepatitis is a liver disease and is caused due to genetic predisposition or acute infection of the liver. The infection of the liver causes a cell-mediated immune response against the body’s own liver resulting in the disease. Further complications can occur if the abnormal immune response results in any inflammation of the liver of the affected person. This disease is quite serious and if it is not treated, further complications can occur and can worsen over a period of time. This disease is a chronic disease which means it can last for many years and can lead to cirrhosis, i.e. scarring and hardening of the liver. This can lead to liver failure eventually.
One of the most common symptoms of Autoimmune Hepatitis is fatigue. The other symptoms of this disease include the following:
- Enlargement of the liver
- Skin rashes
- Joint pains
- Discomfort of the abdomen
- Abnormal blood vessels seen on the skin
- Feeling of nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Dark Urine
- Discolored stools (either grey or pale)
People who are in their advanced stage may also have symptoms that are related to chronic liver disease. These symptoms are fluids in the abdomen and mental confusion. Women may also stop having their monthly menstrual periods. The symptoms of this disease can range from mild to severe. The patients may have to undergo certain tests to diagnose whether they have severe viral hepatitis or autoimmune hepatitis.
Autoimmune Hepatitis can be diagnosed by the doctors based on the symptoms, blood tests and also a liver biopsy of the affected persons.
- Blood tests of the affected persons. A routine blood test has to be done which may reveal a typical type of hepatitis. However, further tests for auto antibodies need to be done to diagnose the disease. Blood tests also help to distinguish this disease from other similar viral hepatitis or other metabolic diseases.
- Liver Biopsy. In this type of diagnosis, doctors take a tiny sample of liver tissue which is observed under the microscope and this shows the seriousness of the disease. This diagnosis is either done in a hospital or in a surgical facility for outpatients.
Autoimmune Hepatitis Treatment
There are many treatment options for Autoimmune Hepatitis but it works best if diagnosed early. It can be controlled effectively with proper treatment. The main treatment is medicine to slow down an overactive immune system. However, this disease may reoccur within three years of the patient taking treatment. If the patient is stopping treatment he must inform his doctor if he observes any new symptoms of the disease. Those who have only a mild form of this disease need not continue taking medications. The doctor will assess each patient to find out if those with mild autoimmune hepatitis must undergo any treatment or not in future.