Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation in your liver that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your liver. Although the cause of autoimmune hepatitis isn't entirely clear, some diseases, toxins and drugs may trigger autoimmune hepatitis in susceptible people, especially women.
Untreated autoimmune hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and eventually to liver failure. When diagnosed and treated early, however, autoimmune hepatitis often can be controlled with drugs that suppress the immune system.
A liver transplant may be an option when autoimmune hepatitis doesn't respond to drug treatments or when liver disease is advanced.
Signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis can range from minor to severe and may come on suddenly or develop over time. Some people have few, if any, recognized problems in the early stages of the disease, whereas others experience signs and symptoms that may include:
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the body's immune system, which ordinarily attacks viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, instead targets the liver. This attack on your liver can lead to chronic inflammation and serious damage to liver cells. Just why the body turns against itself is unclear, but researchers think autoimmune hepatitis could be caused by an interaction between several risk factors, such as infections, medications and a genetic predisposition.
Doctors have identified two main forms of autoimmune hepatitis:
Tests and procedures used to diagnose autoimmune hepatitis include:
Autoimmune hepatitis may be associated with a variety of other autoimmune diseases, including:
Autoimmune hepatitis that goes untreated can cause permanent scarring of the liver tissue (cirrhosis). Complications of cirrhosis include:
Living with a chronic liver disease can be frustrating. Each person finds ways to cope with the stress of a chronic disease. In time, you'll find what works for you. Until then, consider trying to:
Factors that may increase your risk of autoimmune hepatitis include: