10. Autoimmune Hepatitis
Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease characterized by the body’s own immune system attacking the liver and causing inflammation of the liver, or hepatitis. The body’s immune system normally attacks bacteria, viruses, and other foreign agents. It is not supposed to attack its own cells. The exact cause of autoimmune hepatitis is unknown, but genetics and environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disease.
Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic condition and can lead to liver damage, which causes elevated liver enzymes (ALT/AST). There are two forms of autoimmune hepatitis: type 1 (most common form) and type 2. The mainstays of treatment for autoimmune hepatitis are agents that suppress the immune response to the liver. Steroids such as prednisone may be used, but long-term use of steroids can lead to complications such as diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, weight gain, and glaucoma. As symptoms improve the steroid dose is decreased, azathioprine (an immunosuppressive drug) may be added.