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liver-transplant

Autoimmune hepatitis is going to be more challenging in the future. Doctors mention that autoimmune diseases are many times treated as viral hepatitis and then patients come at a late stage to a tertiary centre

“Around two years ago I underwent a liver transplant. I had developed hepatitis many years ago but it did not get diagnosed at an early stage. I am living a normal life now post-transplant. But had it been diagnosed early it might have prevented liver transplant,” said a 43-year-old woman who is undergoing post-transplant follow-up in Pune.

Autoimmune hepatitis is liver inflammation that occurs when your body’s immune system turns against liver cells. The exact cause of autoimmune hepatitis is unclear, but genetic and environmental factors appear to interact over time in triggering the disease.

Dr Sachin Palnitkar, hepatologist from Pune, who treated her, said, “There are many cases of autoimmune hepatitis were because of delay in diagnosis patients had to undergo a liver transplant. Autoimmune hepatitis is going to be more challenging in the future. Different modalities in treating the diseases are evolving. Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare type of hepatitis. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B while hepatitis C can be cured now. Autoimmune diseases if diagnosed on time can be medically managed without patients developing liver failure.”

A liver transplant may be an option when autoimmune hepatitis doesn’t respond to drug treatments or in cases of advanced liver disease.

Dr Vrishali Patil, transplant surgeon from Pune, said, “Rural as well as in urban areas many times doctors miss the correct diagnosis. The patient comes when there is liver failure. These are the patients if treated on time with medical management like steroids can prevent the development of liver failure. Tiredness, fatigue, joint pain, red spots coming on the body, gradual yellowing of the skin are the symptoms if patients see for a long time then they should consult a doctor.”

Signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis vary from person to person and may come on suddenly. Some people have few, if any, recognized problems in the early stages of the disease, whereas others experience signs and symptoms that may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • An enlarged liver
  • Abnormal blood vessels on the skin (spider angiomas)
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pains
  • Loss of menstrual periods

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of autoimmune hepatitis include:

Being female. Although both males and females can develop autoimmune hepatitis, the disease is more common in females.

A history of certain infections. Autoimmune hepatitis may develop after you’re infected with the measles, herpes simplex or Epstein-Barr virus. The disease is also linked to hepatitis A, B or C infection.

Heredity. Evidence suggests that a predisposition to autoimmune hepatitis may run in families.

Having an autoimmune disease. People who already have an autoimmune disease, such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis or hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), may be more likely to develop autoimmune hepatitis.

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