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:
- Graves disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren syndrome
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Type 1 diabetes
- Ulcerative colitis
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.
You may need prednisone or other corticosteroid medicines 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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
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.
Lupoid hepatitis; Chronic acute liver disease
Czaia AJ. Autoimmune hepatitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 88.
Review Date 11/20/2014
Updated by: Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.