Definition & Symptoms
Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease in which an overactive immune system targets and damages the liver causing inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to liver failure. Early on in the disease, there often are no symptoms. Later on in the disease, symptoms may include fatigue, joint pain, yellowing of the skin or eyes, abdominal discomfort or swelling, itching, and dark urine.
Risk factors for the disease include being female, having other autoimmune disorders, a family member with the disease, and use of certain medications including cholesterol lowering drugs and antibiotics.
Autoimmune hepatitis will be diagnosed after a series of blood tests and a liver biopsy. Additionally other testing may include ultrasounds, CT scan, or MRI to evaluate for any complications of the disease and to screen for cancer.
Often, this disease can be controlled with immune suppressant drugs and steroids. If liver failure develops, liver transplant may be a treatment option.