Your body is prone to different infections and diseases all the time through direct or indirect contact with your environment. It is the immune system in your body that fights against these bacteria and viruses that try to harm your body. Your immune system protects you from different diseases and infections. But what if that immune system turns against your liver? It leaves you with a condition called Autoimmune Liver Disease.

What is Autoimmune Liver Disease?

Autoimmune Liver Disease (AILD) is an umbrella term that covers three diseases due to the immune system attacking your healthy liver cells. It is a rare chronic condition that leads to scarring, inflammation of your liver and ultimately, liver failure after some time. AILD mainly affects adults over 40 and is more commonly seen in women than men. Few AILDs can affect young children and cause acute symptoms.

What are its types?

When you are affected by Autoimmune Liver Disease, you will be suffering from one of these three conditions that will be doing damage to your liver and your overall health. They are as follows :

  • Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH): When your body’s immune system attacks the liver cells, it leads to inflammation and damage to your liver. It is a condition that can affect both adults and children and causes serious problems, cirrhosis and acute liver failure.
  • Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC): Primary Biliary Cholangitis, also known as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, is when the biliary ducts inside the liver become inflamed and collapse because of your body’s immune cells. This bile duct damage impairs the liver to excrete bile and hence affects the functioning of your body. PBC affects mostly women compared to men and, when you leave it unnoticed, can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC): When the bile is prevented from passing through and forms a bile drainage, it leads to inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts. PSC causes liver, bile and gallbladder cancers along with cirrhosis and infections. It affects both women and children.

What causes it?

Autoimmune Liver Disease is a condition that, because of its rarity, is not fully understood completely. The causes of it are unknown, but it is said to be a combination of genetics and environmental factors. They are as follows:

  • Family History: If you have a family history of AILDs, then you are more likely to develop AILD.
  • Infections: Some viruses are linked to developing AILD. Hepatitis A, B and E can increase your risk of developing AILD.
  • Toxins: Exposure to toxins found in pesticides and solvents increases your chances of getting AILD.
  • Medications: Few medications, like antibiotics and anticonvulsants, are linked to AILD.
  • Autoimmune disease: If you already have autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, this can increase your chance of getting AILD.

How to identify?

The symptoms of AILD depend on the severity of the disease. Also, you may or may not see the symptoms because, for conditions like Autoimmune hepatitis(AIH), you cannot notice signs until the disease is advanced. But if you do experience symptoms, these are a few common symptoms that you can find, and they are as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Itching
  • Ascites
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale stool
  • Dark urine

These are a few common symptoms that can indicate AILD, and if you find any of these symptoms, it is advisable to get diagnosed by a medical expert immediately.

Is it treatable?

If you are going through AILD, it is a challenge, and you would want to get treated. But, it is an untreatable condition unfortunately. Though untreatable, it is a condition where the symptoms of AILD can be managed, and so you will find relief from experiencing painful symptoms. AILD is managed by suppressing the immune system and also by reducing the symptoms. The treatments are as follows :

  • Medications

  • Immunosuppressant medications are given to reduce the inflammation in the body and also to relieve some symptoms. Topical medications are given to apply on the skin to reduce itching. Along with that, supplements are given to increase vitamin levels in the body.

  • Lifestyle Changes :

  • It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to protect your liver and also to improve liver functioning. So it is recommended to eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and fat and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Also, it is important to maintain a healthy weight to avoid straining the liver of the overweight. Doing regular exercise is suggested for proper liver functioning. Along with these points, it is important to get enough sleep and avoid alcohol and smoking, as it can damage your liver to a great extent.

  • Liver transplant:

  • In advanced and severe cases of AILDs, where the liver stops working, a liver transplant is suggested. This second chance will help you function with a healthy liver and live a healthy life.

    Though Autoimmune Liver disease (AILD) is a rare condition, it is challenging to deal with it. So, it is always suggested you keep your liver away from diseases by leading a healthy, active life and also by following liver-friendly habits.