Clinical course

The liver is a highly efficient organ which under ideal circumstances will function perfectly your whole life. Untreated autoimmune liver diseases may – in most cases after years or decades – lead to a destruction of liver tissue and then to a decreased liver function. The liver then changes in the same way as it does under the influence of other damaging substances.

The major risks for liver disease are:

  • Overweight
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Virus infections
  • Certain drugs

Only in a small proportion of cases is an autoimmune liver disease the reason for damage of the liver. This, however, is precisely the reason why these conditions are often not diagnosed early and can continue to progress.
Irrespective of the cause, similar changes occur in the affected liver. In all cases cells are irrevocably destroyed. Typically liver enzymes are then being “released” from the cells and this is measurable as elevated liver tests in the blood and thus constitutes an important sign of a liver disease. However, if this damaging process continues, the disease will in the end lead to destruction of the liver tissue. Functional cells will be “reshaped” into connective tissue, resulting in progressive scarring. This final stage of the liver diseases is called cirrhosis.
There are effective treatment options for autoimmune liver diseases. The sooner the disease is diagnosed, the more successful is the disease-specific therapy that may stop the destruction of the liver or at least slows it down.

Elevated liver values may be the sign of an autoimmune liver disease! Thus, the reason for elevated liver tests should always be thoroughly determined!

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