Autoimmune liver disease occurs as a result of the body’s immune system attacking the liver, which leads to liver inflammation. If left undiagnosed and treated, the condition can eventually lead to liver cirrhosis and liver failure which can be fatal.
Common Autoimmune Liver Diseases
A number of autoimmune diseases may affect the liver, however, there are some common ones which are more prevalent. These include:
Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC): This occurs when the liver’s bile ducts are attacked and destroyed by the body’s immune system, hence preventing them from excreting bile. This can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH): This condition can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure and does not present any obvious symptoms until the development of the liver failure.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC): This is a condition that occurs when the liver bile ducts become inflamed which leads to scarring and eventually blocked, leading to accumulation of bile, which causes liver damage.
Causes of Autoimmune Hepatitis
Hepatologists are not quite clear on the exact causes of autoimmune liver disease, but it is more likely to show up in people with other autoimmune conditions, including:
- Grave’s disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Hemolytic anemia
- Immune thrombocytopenia
- Celiac disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Symptoms of Autoimmune Liver Disease
The symptoms of autoimmune liver disease may vary from one person to another but some of the most common symptoms may include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling and painful joints
- Mild symptoms that mimic flu
- Itching of the skin
- Enlarged abdomen
- Visible spider-like blood vessels
Diagnosis of Autoimmune Liver Disease
Autoimmune liver disease is diagnosed through a number of tests, which include:
- Liver function test: These checks for inflammation or damage to the liver
- Complete blood count: This looks at the number and types of all cells in the blood
- Coagulation panel: Doctors use this test to ascertain the clotting factor of the blood
- Electrolyte panel: This test checks to see if the patient has an electrolyte imbalance
- Autoimmune antibodies: This is mainly used to check if the patient is suffering from autoimmune hepatitis or any another liver conditions.
- Additional tests of the liver: These are done to check for the presence of other types of liver disease.
Treatment of Autoimmune Liver Disease
Treatment of autoimmune liver disease is most effective if the condition is diagnosed in its early stages. The aim of treating autoimmune liver disease is to eventually have the condition under control, in addition to getting rid of any underlying symptoms, controlling the overactive immune response, and slowing down the inflammation in the liver.
The drugs mainly used to treat the autoimmune liver disease include:
- Immune-suppressing drugs
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), like ibuprofen and naproxen
There are also treatments to relieve symptoms such as swelling, pain, fatigue, and skin rashes.
Specialists in liver conditions also recommend a well-balanced diet and regular exercise to help an individual feel better.
Note: Treatment of autoimmune diseases consists mainly the administration of medication to bring down inflammation and slow the overactive immune response.
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