Autoimmune hepatitis

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Autoimmune hepatitis

Definition

Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by immune cells that mistake the liver's normal cells as harmful invaders.

Alternative Names

Lupoid hepatitis

Causes

A person with autoimmune hepatitis has autoantibodies circulating in the bloodstream that cause the immune system to attack the liver.

This disease is associated with other autoimmune diseases, including the following:

Autoimmune hepatitis sometimes occurs in relatives of people with autoimmune diseases, suggesting a genetic cause.

This disease is most common in young girls and women.

Symptoms

  • Dark urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling (malaise)
  • Abdominal distention
  • Generalized itching
  • Pale or clay-colored stools
  • Nausea and vomiting

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease include amenorrhea (absence of menstruation).

Exams and Tests

  • Liver biopsy showing chronic hepatitis
  • Abnormal liver function tests

Tests associated with autoimmune hepatitis:

  • Positive ANA
  • Positive anti-liver kidney microsomal antibody
  • Positive anti-mitochondrial antibody
  • Higher than normal sedimentation rate
  • Higher than normal serum IgG

Treatment

Prednisone or other corticosteroids help reduce the inflammation. Azathioprine and mercaptopurine are drugs used to treat other autoimmune disorders, which have shown to help patients with autoimmune hepatitis as well.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outcome varies. Corticosteroid therapy may slow the disease progression. However, autoimmune hepatitis may progress to cirrhosis and require liver transplant.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you notice symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis.

Prevention

Autoimmune hepatitis is usually not preventable. Awareness of risk factors may allow early detection and treatment.

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