Putting a Face on AIH
Putting a face on autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) isn’t easy. It's a a rare form of hepatitis and liver disease in which the body’s immune system attacks liver cells, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Inflammation or hepatitis is caused by this immune response. A genetic factor may make some people more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, though the disease affects mostly women (about 70 percent), according to researchers.
AIH is usually quite serious and, if not treated, gets worse over time. While not curable, AIH is not always terminal.
Autoimmune hepatitis is typically chronic, meaning it can last for years, lead to cirrhosis (scarring and hardening of the liver). Eventually, liver failure can result and a liver transplant is required. Autoimmune hepatitis is classified as type 1 or type 2. In North America, Type 1 is the most common form. It can occur at any age but most often starts in adolescence or young adulthood.
Other medical markers presenting in Type I AIH patients are other autoimmune disorders, such as: type 1 diabetes; proliferative glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of blood vessels in the kidneys; thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland; Graves’ disease, the leading cause of overactive thyroid; Sjögren’s syndrome, a syndrome that causes dry eyes and mouth autoimmune anemia; and, ulcerative colitis, and an inflammation of the colon and rectum leading to ulcers. Less common, Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis typically affects girls aged two to 14, although adults can have it too.
Besides myself, I didn’t know of anyone who had ever had AIH. I searched my family’s medical history and I could not find the presence of AIH or liver disease anywhere.
I wanted to find AIH survivor stories for my personal inspiration and low and behold, I discovered two inspiring ones.Continued on the next page