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Autoimmune Hepatitis

A chronic disease marked by severe liver damage caused by the patient’s own immune system, autoimmune hepatitis affects one in a population of 100,000. The condition is more likely to be seen in women, as compared to men, with the majority of patients belonging to the age group of the 40s and 50s. Autoimmune hepatitis has been linked with a variety of life-threatening complications like acute liver failure, cirrhosis and even liver cancer. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to alleviate these risks. 

What is Autoimmune Hepatitis ?
Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition marked by severe inflammation of the liver triggered by a faulty immune system. This is believed to be a result of certain genetic and environmental factors that disrupt the normal functioning of the immune system and turn it against healthy cells. If the condition progresses it can lead to excessive scarring and eventually liver failure.

How many types of autoimmune hepatitis are there?
Autoimmune hepatitis is broadly classified into two types. These are:

  • Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis, which is the most common type that can affect people of any age group
  • Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis, which is not as common and is usually seen in small children

What causes Autoimmune Hepatitis?
Our immune system is our body’s natural defence mechanism that fights foreign bodies thereby alleviating the risks of serious infections. However, sometimes, the immune system may become dysfunctional and start fighting the healthy cells along with the unhealthy ones. This is exactly what happens in the case of autoimmune hepatitis. Your immune system starts attacking the healthy liver cells, leading to chronic inflammation that eventually results in liver failure. 

What are the symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis?
Symptoms that may suggest that a person has autoimmune hepatitis include:

  • Weakness and fatigue 
  • Pain and discomfort in the abdomen
  • Enlargement of liver
  • Jaundice like symptoms 
  • Rashes and redness on the skin
  • Spider angiomas 
  • Unexplained pain in the joints 

When is the right time to see a doctor? 
It is advisable to see a doctor as soon as you notice any of the symptoms. Experiencing these does not necessarily indicate that you have autoimmune hepatitis and hence it is better to opt for an assessment before reaching any conclusion.

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