Autoimmune Hepatitis (what is it?)

So the results are in.

Unfortunately for me, they aren’t the best results in the world. Following months of blood tests, a scan and a biopsy, a Hepatologist has now diagnosed me with Autoimmune Hepatitis.  What on earth is that? I hear you ask. Well let me explain…

Hepatitis is the sciency word for inflammation of the liver and there are many ways of contracting Hepatitis including alcohol abuse or a viral infection. Autoimmune Hepatitis (commonly referred to as AIH) is when the body’s immune system turns against the liver’s cells (hepatocytes) and starts to destroy it. Yes my dear Itisites, the body tells itself to attack, even though the mighty liver has done no wrong!  The cause of this disease is unclear but genetics and environment can play a key factor; I guess my immune system is currently playing top trumps with my insides.

 

Is Autoimmune Hepatitis curable?

AIH is a suppressible, manageable but not curable disease. There is medication to keep it from progressing and causing real damage. If AIH is left untreated, it can develop into cirrohsis of the liver. Cirrohsis, which can take years to develop, is when the liver is so badly scarred that it is no longer functions as it should and at this point you are likely to need a liver transplant. Thankfully, although my liver is inflamed and slightly scarred, my doctor has suggested that this hasn’t developed into cirrohsis, but the scarring suggests my liver has been under attack for some time.  So we found it out at an early stage!

How am I treating my Autoimmune Hepatitis?

To stop the progression of the inflammation and scarring I have been prescribed a corticosteroid called budesonide. It’s designed to target the colon, not the stomach and this is where it slowly releases and is then absorbed by the liver – it treats both my Ulcerative Colitis and the Autoimmune Hepatitis. Here’s a really cool Youtube video which shows the process of absorption by the body.

I’ll be back to see my Hepatology doctor in a month where we’ll talk about tapering down my steriod and putting me on to Azathioprine which is an immunosuppressant oral drug. My research suggests will treat my Ankylosing Spondilitis, Ulcerative Colitis and Autoimmune Hepatitis…say that with a mouth full of marshmallows!

How am I handling it? 

Well I’m honestly incredibly peeved and angry at my body for being so feeble and for a while I’ll need the space to just wallow in my own misery and shake my fist at the world. But I know that over time, with more rational thought I’ll start to feel gratitude for the fact that I’ve caught this bastard thing early enough that I can kick its sorry ass. Also, if you throw a slice of lime in a small glass of water it sure as heck looks like a gin and tonic.