autoimmune hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the liver, causing chronic inflammation of the liver. It can be very serious and, if not treated, gets worse over time.

Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare but potentially serious disorder. About 70 percent of patients with autoimmune hepatitis are women. It may be associated with other autoimmune diseases, such as chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland.

Autoimmune hepatitis is not infectious and cannot be passed from one person to another.


Autoimmune hepatitis does not have a specific cause. It is usually caused by a combination of autoimmunity, environmental triggers, and a genetic predisposition.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Hepatitis

Signs and symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the amount of liver damage present. Some symptoms a person experiences may be due to other underlying heath conditions or autoimmune diseases that are associated with autoimmune hepatitis.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint aches
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged liver
  • Abnormal blood vessels on the skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Pale or gray colored stools
  • Mental confusion

Treatment Options?

Treatment works best when autoimmune hepatitis is diagnosed early. The most common treatment is prolonged use of corticosteroids and immunosuppressant drugs. Immunosuppressant drugs are drugs that slow down an overactive immune system. In severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary.

Autoimmune hepatitis often recurs among people who stop treatment. If left untreated, it can lead to scarring of the liver and liver failure.


Autoimmune hepatitis is classified as either type 1 or type 2. Type 1 is the most common form in North America. It occurs at any age and is more common among women than men. About half of those with type I have other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, proliferative glomerulonephritis, thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, Sjögren’s syndrome, autoimmune anemia, and ulcerative colitis.

Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis is less common, typically affecting girls ages 2 to 14.

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