Autoimmune hepatitis is when your body’s infection-fighting system (immune system) attacks your liver cells. This causes redness and swelling (inflammation) and liver damage.
It is a long-term or chronic inflammatory liver disease.
There are 2 types of autoimmune hepatitis: type 1 (classic) or type 2.
The liver is a large organ that sits up under your ribs on the right side of your belly (abdomen). It helps filter waste from your body, makes bile to help digest food, and stores sugar that your body uses for energy.
Experts don’t know what causes autoimmune hepatitis.
It is linked to a disorder called hypergammaglobulinemia. This disorder occurs when you have too many protein antibodies in your blood. It may be caused by a long-term (chronic) infection or certain blood diseases.
Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis is linked to other disorders where the body attacks itself (autoimmune disorders). These may include:
Each person’s symptoms may vary. Some of the most common symptoms may include:
Other autoimmune hepatitis symptoms may include:
The symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will look at your health history and give you a physical exam.
Some lab blood tests used to diagnose autoimmune hepatitis include:
You may also have imaging tests such as:
Treatment works best when autoimmune hepatitis is found early. The goal of treatment is to control the disease and to reduce or get rid of any symptoms (be in remission).
To do this, medicines (corticosteroids and immune system suppressors) are used to help slow down or suppress your overactive immune system. They also stop your body from attacking your liver.
Once you have started treatment, it can take 6 months to a few years for the disease to go into remission. Some people can stop taking medicine, but often the disease comes back. You may need treatment now and then for the rest of your life. Some people need to remain on treatment if they have relapsed many times or if their disease is severe.
In some cases autoimmune hepatitis may go away without taking any medicines. But for most people, autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic disease.
It can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis). The liver can become so badly damaged that it no longer works. This is called liver failure.
If you have liver failure, a liver transplant may be needed.
Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about recommended vaccines. These include vaccines for viruses that can cause liver disease.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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