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Researchers think a genetic factor may predispose some people to autoimmune diseases, where about 70 percent of those with autoimmune hepatitis are women. Most patients are between the ages of 15 and 40. This disease is usually quite serious and, if not treated, gets worse over time.
What is autoimmune hepatitis?
This is usually a chronic disease, meaning it can last for years, and can lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis involves scarring and hardening of the liver, and eventual liver failure.
Autoimmune hepatitis could be type I or II. Type I is the most common form in North America, occurring at any age. It is more common among women than among men. About half of those with type I have other autoimmune disorders, such as thyroidosis, Graves' disease, Sjogren's syndrome, or autoimmune anemia.
Type II autoimmune hepatitis is less common, typically affecting girls aged 2 to 14, although adults can have it as well.
The primary function of the immune system is to protect the body from viruses, bacteria, and other invasive living organisms. Usually, the immune system does not react against the body’s own cells due to the “education” of lymphocytes in the thymus before birth. However, sometimes it mistakenly attacks the cells it is supposed to protect, so this response brings autoimmunity problems. Researchers speculate that certain bacteria, viruses, toxins, or some drugs can trigger an autoimmune response in people who are genetically susceptible to developing an autoimmune disorder.