Hope you all had a lovely, well rested weekend and are ready to start a new week! In this post, I shall be talking a bit more about Autoimmune Hepatitis, what it is, what it’s not, how it affects people in their day to day life.
What is Autoimmune Hepatitis?
A lot of people confuse Autoimmune Hepatitis with Hepatitis A/B/C/E. No, they are not the same, no I have not contracted a sexual transmitted disease or been sharing needles (yeesh), or drinking heavy, and no I have not caught this, nor am I contagious.
The way my doctor explained it to me was “auto” being my own, “immune” referring to my immune system, and the word “hepatitis” meaning inflammation of the liver. So in other words, my immune system has gone kamikaze on my liver.
What is the cause of Autoimmune Hepatitis?
In most cases, including in other autoimmune illnesses, the cause of AIH is unknown. It is also a Chronic Illness, meaning it’s ongoing, unfortunately, once you have AIH, there is no going back. It can’t be “cured” as of yet, but it can be managed, and some people are lucky enough to get off medication completely and just go for check ups to make sure they haven’t had a flare or need to be put back onto them.
Due to a family member being in the same generation as myself also being diagnosed with a different autoimmune illness, my doctor has put it down to genetics, a possible dormant gene that has been sitting quiet and then possibly due to environmental factors, eventually woken up to go nuts.
When they did the biopsy, they also had to check to see if I had developed Cirrhosis, which is the result of long-term damage to the liver, which can lead to scarring, and also liver failure. I have been very lucky to have not developed it (touch wood) so we could solely focus on getting my immune system at bay.
Another possible cause to develop an autoimmune illness is to what some refer to as a “leaky gut”. This is where your bowel lining may have become irritated and “leaky” due to many factors, thus bacterial toxins and germs can pass through the lining, into the bloodstream triggering the immune system and causing persistent inflammation. Some people then may decided to go onto the Autoimmune Protocol Diet to help combat this, and some have even been known to come off their medication fully, but there is not enough research to prove there is a direct correlation between the two.
Who does Autoimmune Hepatitis affect?
AIH is super rare, it affects 1 in 10,000 people in the UK. Although it can also be found in men and children, it is usually found in women aged 45 and above.
People constantly ask me “oh what are the symptoms” like I may have developed some crazy ass boils or something silly you see on a children’s programme, but here is the scary part. Apart from those who develop something called “Jaundice” there aren’t all that many symptoms to look out for apart from generally feeling unwell, hence why I easily had mistaken mine for flu, and I’m sure I’m not the only person to have done this either.
“Jaundice” is where a build up of a certain chemical made in the liver leaks into your blood stream and tends to make the whites of your eyes and skin go yellow. Again, I was lucky enough to have not turned yellow just yet, but from some support groups I have followed, people have often described themselves as being the colour of a yellow highlighter.
As mentioned in a separate post, AIH is diagnosed by a series of blood tests, an ultrasound and a biopsy, and to begin with, usually not on purpose neither. The only reason I originally had any sort of blood test done was due to generally feeling unwell, and it wasn’t until my labs came back showing my liver levels raised that they started to look further into it.
Currently, the only way to treat AIH, is through steroids and immunosuppressants. Both drugs can have horrendous and life threatening side effects, but I don’t want to go into either of those just yet, Prednisolone/Prednisone will be getting it’s own special post. You will usually go through lots of LFTs (Liver Function Tests done via bloods) to see how your liver is functioning and from there, your doctor will decide whether you need to raise or lower your medication. You may also take Vitamin D and Calcium tablets to help counter balance the preds.
For most, you usually go about life as per normal. Some choose to work full time still, others suffer more from fatigue from either the illness or the meds and may work part time or choose not to work at all. Doctors will advise you not to drink alcohol, this is good advice and I would tend to stick with it. Some may choose to take on an AIP diet or change some of what they eat, some may not.
It’s all about making your life how you want it. I prefer not to be defined by my illness, and will try to get my life back to normal as quickly as my liver will allow me. Til then, I shall treat it well by not ingesting any alcohol and consume my 2 litres of water a day and try and be the best I can be.
I hope this has informed you a little more on what this can be life threatening illness is, if you have any questions, I have social media buttons on the side, or you can get in contact on the “contact” button (duh). Also please remember that any information provided on this blog is all just from my experience and what I have learnt either from speaking with my doctor, or from external research that I have conducted myself. Happy Reading!
Peace & Love,