What are autoimmune liver disorders?
An autoimmune disorder is any reaction or attack of a person’s immune system against its own organs and tissues. In the liver, the immune system can destroy liver cells and damage bile ducts. Chronic active hepatitis can be caused by an autoimmune disorder.
In autoimmune hepatitis, the body’s own immune system destroys the cells of the liver. It may be classified as type 1 or type 2. Type 1 (classic) is the most common form. It may occur at any age, but usually affects young women more than men. Also, other autoimmune disorders can be associated with type 1 such as thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis generally affects girls between the ages of two and 14, but does occur in adults.
What are metabolic liver disorders?
Two main metabolic disorders affect the liver:
- hemochromatosis (Also called iron overload disease.) – characterized by the absorption of too much iron from food. Instead of secreting the excess iron, the iron is stored throughout the body, including the liver and pancreas. The excess iron can damage these organs. Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease that can lead to liver disease, liver failure, liver cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Wilson’s disease – characterized by the retention of too much copper in the liver. Instead of releasing the copper into the bile, the liver retains the copper. Eventually, the damaged liver releases copper into the bloodstream. This hereditary disease can cause damage to the kidneys, brain, and eyes, and can lead to severe brain damage, liver failure, and death.
Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients’ health care decisions. That’s just one reason why we’re dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.