I was 20 years old when I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis. Autoimmune Hepatitis affects many young females. About 70 percent of those afflicted are women under the age of 40. This type of Hepatitis can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes, as can other forms of Hepatitis. The only symptoms I experienced were several months of chronic fatigue, dizziness when standing, and two missed periods.
When I went to the doctor and received a simple blood test, I had no idea I was to be told I had an elevated white blood cell count combined with a relatively high immunoglobulin G antibody. You might know all too well the initial feelings of the Hepatitis diagnosis…shock, panic, and fear. At least for me, those were my feelings. I did not even have a tender liver or any swelling of the lymph nodes. The doctor told me an early diagnosis is crucial, because any untreated Hepatitis can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver failure. He told me I probably have genetic predispositions toward the disease, and I made a good call by listening to my body and deciding to be checked out. I personally am able to manage my autoimmune hepatitis by using antiviral drugs. Thankfully I have not had a relapse since I was first diagnosed and treated. My goal now is to prevent that for as long as possible.
As kids we are taught that Hepatitis is usually only transmitted, and not formed inside the body. I was taught that Hepatitis is basically only a drug-user and alcoholic disease. The truth, however, is that diseases of the liver do not discriminate. The risk is increased by traveling to areas with poor sanitation, sharing food and/or drinks, sharing drug needles, having unprotected oral/vaginal/anal sex, and drinking more than moderate portions of alcohol. Thankfully, Hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccines. Hepatitis B and C can be silent for up to several years, before the classic symptoms of liver damage set in: jaundice, nausea, piercing pain in the liver area, and dark colored urine. For years the standard treatment for both Hepatitis B and C has been weekly injections of interferon medicine, combined with a cocktail of antiviral medications. The side effects are often similar to chemo. There has been talk the past 2 years about a break-through treatment. The treatment is taking a variety of oral antiviral pills for a couple of months. According to the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, a large test was implemented which included several hundred patients who had shown very little response to the standard interferon injections. Over 90% of the patients showed zero signs of the virus in their bodies after 24 weeks of taking the new, antiviral pills. These were the same patients who were prepared to die. The bad news is that the treatment, like most breakthrough treatments, costs thousands and might be too expensive for many patients.
Some people are interested in changing their lifestyle choices and pursuing alternative treatment options. Some of which are: Staying physically active and using herbal drinks which have shown to sooth the body of infectious disease and boost immunity. Another good idea would be to increase richly colored fruits and vegetables into your diet to further enhance your immune system. The idea is to keep your body in prime fighting condition. It is not a disease that can be fought off completely but taking these steps can make the next big change in one of life’s biggest epidemics.