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Autoimmune hepatitis

Definition

Autoimmune hepatitis is inflammation of the liver that occurs when immune cells mistake the liver's normal cells for harmful invaders and attack them.

Alternative Names

Lupoid hepatitis; Chronic acute liver disease

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

In patients who have an autoimmune disease, the immune system can't 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, 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.

Symptoms

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease include absence of menstruation (amenorrhea).

Signs and tests

Tests for autoimmune hepatitis:

Treatment

Prednisone or other corticosteroid medications help reduce the inflammation. Azathioprine and 6-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.

Expectations (prognosis)

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

Complications

Calling your health care provider

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.

References

Czaia AJ. Autoimmune hepatitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 88.


Review Date: 11/23/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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