Autoimmune Hepatitis

In autoimmune hepatitis, the body’s natural immune system attacks the good cells of the liver and causes inflammation and liver damage. It is a chronic disease. If untreated, the autoimmune system can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. In India more than 1 million people are suffering from autoimmune hepatitis, people who are affected are mainly in the age group 14 to 40.

  • Liver failure- it occurs when your liver stops working
  • Cirrhosis- scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue and leads to blockage of normal blood flow.


The main cause of autoimmune hepatitis is an attack of the immune system on normal liver cells. But the reason for self-attack on the liver by the own body is unknown. Researches assume it as an interaction between genes.

Type 1 autoimmune hepatitis Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis
It is the most common type of the disease. About half of the people with autoimmune hepatitis are with other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis. This type of hepatitis usually develops in adults but is most commonly developed in children and young people. Other types of autoimmune diseases can also accompany this type of disorders.

Factors that may increase the risk of autoimmune hepatitis are:

  • Gender: autoimmune hepatitis is more common in female than in males.
  • Infections: Certain infections like measles, herpes simplex or Epstein-Barr virus make you more susceptible for autoimmune hepatitis.
  • Heredity: If you have a familial history of autoimmune hepatitis, then you are at an increased risk of developing autoimmune hepatitis.

The symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis, are related to that of the symptoms of hepatitis B and C.
The symptoms can range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Light-colored stools
  • Discomfort in the liver
  • Yellow coloration of urine

The most common symptoms of hepatitis C include:

  • Tiredness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • High temperature of 38C

Your healthcare provider would diagnose the case of autoimmune hepatitis by understanding your symptoms, performing physical examination, blood tests, and liver biopsy.

  • Blood tests: is performed to differentiate other liver disease which has same symptoms to that of autoimmune hepatitis, such as viral hepatitis.
  • Liver biopsy: liver biopsy determines the extent and type of the liver damage. For this test, a small amount of liver tissue is removed, using a needle that is passaged to the liver through the skin.

You may have complications that include permanent scarring of liver tissue. Other complications may include:

  • Liver failure
  • Liver cancer
  • Fluid in the abdomen
  • Enlargement of the veins of esophagus

The main goal of autoimmune hepatitis treatment is to suppress the overactive immune system. The disease can be controlled in most of the cases by following the standard treatment options. Medications are the first choice of treatment.

  • Medications: If your symptoms are mild, or there are no symptoms, your doctor may not give you any medications. Corticosteroids are used to reduce the swelling and reduce the activity of the immune system; the main task is to find the lowest dose sufficient to treat the disease.
  • Immunity suppressors: These drugs reduce the inflammation and block the immune cell’s activity.
  • Liver transplant: In most severe cases such as cirrhosis or end stage liver failure, a transplant is required. Your liver would then be replaced by a healthy donor’s liver.

You can have a normal healthy diet which is balanced with all the nutrients. You must totally avoid alcohol as it further deteriorates the damaged liver. If you consume alcohol, you may develop a more complicated disease such as cirrhosis.