Extrahepatic Autoimmune Diseases are Prevalent in Autoimmune Hepatitis Patients and Their First-Degree Relatives: Survey Study

Interact J Med Res. 2018 Dec 19;7(2):e18. doi: 10.2196/ijmr.9625.


Background: Concurrent autoimmune illnesses contribute to increased medical burden and reduced quality of life in patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). The frequency of coexisting autoimmune conditions among North American patients with AIH and their families remains incomplete. Challenges associated with disease capture in the electronic medical record, high study costs, and geographic spread of patients are formidable barriers to understanding the extent of concurrent autoimmune conditions in these groups.

Objective: This objective of this study was to examine the frequency of extrahepatic autoimmune diseases (EHAD) among AIH cases and healthy controls as well as their first-degree relatives using social networking sites (SNS).

Methods: We developed a 53-question survey detailing the history of autoimmune diseases. A survey link was posted at routine intervals within specific Web-based cohorts on SNS. Healthy controls, without self-reported autoimmune liver disease, were recruited from Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Continuous variables were summarized using medians and P values obtained with the Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Categorical variables were compared using the chi-square test.

Results: Compared with controls (n=1162), cases (n=306) were more likely to be older (median age: 49 vs 33 years), female (284/306, 92.81% vs 955/1162, 82.18%), and have an EHAD (128/306, 41.83% vs 218/1162, 18.76%; P=.001). The most frequent EHADs among cases were thyroid disease (49/306, 16.01% ), Sjögren syndrome (27/306, 8.82%), Raynaud phenomenon (23/306, 7.52%), and psoriasis (22/306, 7.19%). Overall, 55.88% (171/306) of cases and 35.71% (1601/4484) of controls reported at least 1 first-degree relative (FDR) with a history of EHAD (P=.001). Cases had a significantly higher risk of EHAD than controls after the adjustment for age, sex, race, and body mass index: odds ratio 2.46 (95% CI 1.8-3.3); P=.001.

Conclusions: Patients with AIH report higher prevalence of coexistent EHAD than healthy controls, and their FDRs are also more likely to have autoimmune disorders.

Keywords: autoimmune hepatitis; first-degree relatives; social media.