Skip to content

Hepatitis Health Center

The Connection Between Hepatitis C and Autoimmune Disorders

Font Size
A
A
A

 

Infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) can trigger autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) in a minority of patients. This means that the liver cells are damaged not only by the virus but also by the body's own immune system.

Recommended Related to Hepatitis

Understanding Hepatitis C -- the Basics

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by an infection with the hepatitis C virus. The liver becomes inflamed and swollen and stops working as it should. Hepatitis C is a serious disease because the liver is needed to remove toxins that build up in the blood. Hepatitis C can destroy the liver and cause cirrhosis and death. It is the main cause of liver transplants in the world. After being infected with the hepatitis C virus, 75%-85% of people will develop a chronic, long-term, infection. Once...

Read the Understanding Hepatitis C -- the Basics article > >

AIH triggers the body to attack its liver cells as if the liver cells were harmful foreign substances. Patients with a combination of HCV and autoimmune hepatitis may suffer from more debilitating symptoms than patients with HCV alone. Autoimmune hepatitis is associated with other autoimmune illnesses, including thyroiditis (inflammation of the thyroid), diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation of the joints), and ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the large intestine).

Below are some frequently asked questions about the complex relationship between HCV and autoimmune hepatitis.

Q. What are the Symptoms of Autoimmune Hepatitis?

 

A. In its most clandestine form, AIH may be detected during the evaluation of HCV in a person who is asymptomatic (without symptoms). An asymptomatic presentation occurs approximately 15% to 20% of the time.  People whose condition is asymptomatic often have a milder course of disease.  At the opposite extreme, AIH may be discovered during an attack of the disease, usually characterized by grossly elevated liver-related blood tests, jaundice, severe itching, right upper quadrant pain, and fatigue. This occurs in up to 25% of the cases. Other people fall somewhere in between, having vague symptoms such as a general sense of lethargy, muscle and joint aches, or mild abdominal discomfort.

Fatigue is the most common and often the sole symptom, occurring in approximately 85% of symptomatic people. The severity of fatigue does not always correlate with the degree of liver inflammation and damage.

Extrahepatic (involving organ and tissue other than the liver) features result from the immune system harming other organs of the body. These symptoms can include absence of a menstrual period, bloody diarrhea (due to ulcerative colitis), abdominal pain, arthritis, rashes, anemia, kidney disease, dry eyes, and dry mouth.

People with AIH typically have a chronic fluctuating course. AIH is characterized by exacerbations (worsening) and remissions of disease, which occur at varying intervals.

 

Today on WebMD

Hepatitus C virus
Types, symptoms and treatments.
liver illustration
Myths and facts about this essential organ.
 
woman eating apple
What you need to know.
doctor and patient
What causes it?
 
Hepatitis C Treatment
Article
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
liver illustration
Quiz
passport, pills and vaccine
Slideshow
 
Scientist looking in microscope
Slideshow
Fatty Liver Disease
Article
 
Digestive Diseases Liver Transplantation
Article
Picture Of The Liver
Image Collection