What is autoimmune liver disease?


Quick Answer

Autoimmune liver diseases are characterized by a persistent immune system that attacks and destroys liver cells while leaving behind scar tissue known as fibrosis, according to Mount Sinai Hospital. These types of diseases progress slowly, and many patients do not show symptoms for long periods of time. In extreme cases of cirrhosis of the liver due to fibroid scarring, the only known cure is a liver transplant.

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What is autoimmune liver disease?
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Full Answer

Modern Pathology reveals there are three main types of autoimmune liver diseases: autoimmune hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis and primary sclerosing cholangitis. These diseases commonly overlap each other in the liver. Roughly 1 in 100,00 Americans have autoimmune hepatitis, a disease usually obtained through genetics.

Primary biliary cirrhosis destroys bile ducts in the liver and may occur alongside other autoimmune diseases. Modern Pathology explains the cause of primary biliary cirrhosis is unknown, and as many as 60 percent of patients with the disease do not show symptoms. Approximately 40 in 100,000 Americans get primary biliary cirrhosis, and 90 percent of cases are women in their 50s to 70s. When detected early enough, this form of autoimmune liver disease is treated with ursodeoxycholic acid.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis appears in the liver as fibrosis scar tissue and inflammation of bile ducts. About 4 in 100,000 Americans get this disease, with men twice as prevalent as women. Seventy percent of patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis also have ulcerative colitis for unknown reasons, according to Modern Pathology. Early symptoms of this disease may include jaundice, pain the liver area and pruritis.

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