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Autoimmune Hepatitis: Cause, symptoms, treatment options, insurance coverage

What is Autoimmune Hepatitis?

Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the liver, causing chronic inflammation of the liver.

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

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

Symptoms of Autoimmune Hepatitis

The most common symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis 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

Can Autoimmune Hepatitis be Treated?

Yes. Treatment works best when autoimmune hepatitis is diagnosed early. The most common treatment is prolonged use of immunosuppressant drugs. Immunosuppressant drugs are drugs that slow down an overactive immune system.

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

Types of Autoimmune Hepatitis

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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