Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It occurs when immune cells mistake the liver's normal cells for harmful invaders and attack them.
This form of hepatitis is an autoimmune disease. The body's immune system cannot tell the difference between healthy body tissue and harmful, outside substances. The result is an immune response that destroys normal body tissues.
Liver inflammation, or hepatitis, may occur along with other autoimmune diseases. These include:
Autoimmune hepatitis may occur in family members of people with autoimmune diseases. There may be a genetic cause.
This disease is most common in young girls and women.
Symptoms may include:
Absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) may also be a symptom.
Tests for autoimmune hepatitis include the following blood tests:
You may need prednisone or other corticosteroid medicines to help reduce the inflammation. Azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine are drugs used to treat other autoimmune disorders. They have been shown to help people with autoimmune hepatitis, as well.
Some people may need a liver transplant.
The outcome varies. Corticosteroid medicines may slow the progress of the disease. However, autoimmune hepatitis may advance to cirrhosis. This would require a liver transplant.
Complications may include:
Call your health care provider if you notice symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis.
Autoimmune hepatitis cannot be prevented in most cases. Knowing the risk factors may help you detect and treat the disease early.
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.