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Autoimmune Hepatitis Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Chronic active hepatitis (CAH), or autoimmune hepatitis, is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease of the liver. It usually occurs by itself, but it can co-exist with other autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus.

Autoimmune disorders are caused when the body's immune system, which is meant to defend the body against bacteria, viruses, and any other foreign product, malfunctions and produces antibodies against healthy tissue, cells and organs.

Symptoms are as follows: feeling generally unwell, aches and pains around the body, a low grade fever, loss of appetite, loss of desire to smoke in smokers, pain on the right side of the abdomen, vomiting, often brought on by the smell or sight of food, jaundice (whites of eyes and later skin is yellow).

There are other causes of chronic active hepatitis (CAH) other than autoimmunity. These include liver allergic reaction to medicinal drugs, alcohol abuse, non-A, non-B virus infections, and Wilson's disease (copper overload).

What sets autoimmune hepatitis apart from other types of CAH is the presence of autoimmune antibodies. Such autoantibodies are not found in the other forms of CAH, particularly CAH associated with alcohol abuse. The one exception is a type of drug-induced CAH in which autoantibodies are present; but with the withdrawal of the offending medicine, the conditions subside.

CAH favors females eight to one over males. most often in the childbearing years. Often the patient is of Northern European extraction.

Conventional treatment involves the use of Prednisone and other immunosupressants. Often patients are unable to tolerate the long-term side effects of these drugs. However, despite the long-term dangers of these drugs, AIH is usually successfully suppressed and sometimes in medicine you gotta' do what you gotta' do to control an illness.

As with other autoimmune diseases, there is frequently a digestive disorder with associated leaky gut syndrome. This can allow undigested whole proteins into the circulation which then stimulate antibody production by the immune system. These antibodies can then attack organs producing autoimmune illness. This may be the mechanism behind AIH also and should always be looked for and treated if found.



The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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