Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that occurs when immune cells mistake the liver's normal cells for harmful invaders and attack them.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors:
This disease is associated with other autoimmune diseases , including:
Autoimmune hepatitis sometimes occurs in relatives of people with autoimmune diseases, which suggests that there is a genetic cause.
This disease is most common in young girls and women.
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease include absence of menstruation (amenorrhea ).
Signs and tests:
Tests associated with autoimmune hepatitis:
Prednisone or other corticosteroid medications help reduce the inflammation. Azathioprine and mercaptopurine are drugs used to treat other autoimmune disorders. They have been shown to help patients with autoimmune hepatitis, as well.
Some patients may receive a liver transplant.
The outcome varies. Corticosteroid therapy may slow the disease progression. However, autoimmune hepatitis may worsen to cirrhosis and require a liver transplant.
Calling your health care provider:
Call your health care provider if you notice symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis.
Autoimmune hepatitis is usually not preventable. Awareness of risk factors may allow early detection and treatment.
References: Luxon BA. Diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune hepatitis. Gastroenterology Clinics. June 2008;37.