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Autoimmune Hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease in which the patient's own immune system attacks healthy liver cells. It is often chronic and can cause severe damage to the liver.

Symptoms

Symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis vary from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain
  • Rash and/or itching
  • Jaundice (yellow coloring of skin and eyes)
  • Pale stools
  • Dark urine
  • Enlarged liver

Causes

The specific reason why the immune system attacks the liver is unknown.

How to diagnosis autoimmune hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis is diagnosed based on the patient's symptoms as well as through blood tests and a liver biopsy.

  • Blood tests: a definite diagnosis can be obtained through blood testing
  • Liver biopsy: a small piece of liver tissue is removed from the body to diagnosis autoimmune hepatitis and reveal the severity of liver damage

Treatment

Treatment is most successful with early diagnosis. In most cases, initial treatment involves medication to slow down the patient's overactive immune system, thus stopping damage to the liver cells.

Medications

  • Prednisone
  • Azathioprine

Over time, patients who do not respond to treatment may develop cirrhosis and eventually liver failure. If this occurs, a liver transplant may be considered.