Autoimmune hepatitis

What is autoimmune hepatitis?

The most common cause of liver inflammation is viruses. Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is one exception. This disease occurs when the own immune system attacks the liver cells. Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic disease and can lead to cirrhosis and eventually liver failure.

Types of AIH

There are three types of autoimmune hepatitis. The first type affects mostly young women and is usually associated with other autoimmune diseases. The second type usually affects girls between the ages of 2 and 14. Although AIH usually occurs in adolescence or early adulthood, it can develop at any age. The third type most often affects people between the ages of 30 and 50. The disease progresses to cirrhosis in 75% of patients.

What are the symptoms?

In the earlier stages, the disease may be asymptomatic. It is also possible for them to appear suddenly or increase as AIH progresses.

Among the more common symptoms are:

  • Enlarged liver – hepatomegaly;
  • Abnormal looking blood vessels on the skin;
  • Abdominal swelling;
  • Dark beer-colored urine ;
  • Pale-colored stools.

Additional symptoms that may occur:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes – jaundice;
  • Itching caused by the accumulation of toxins;
  • Fatigue;
  • Lack of appetite;< /li>
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Joint pain;
  • Abdominal discomfort.

What are the causes ?

AIH develops when our own immune system mistakes liver cells for foreign organisms and creates antibodies to attack them. Doctors are not sure why this happens. However, several risk factors have been identified:

  • Family history of the disease;
  • Previous bacterial or viral infections;
  • Use of certain medications such as minocycline;

Other Autoimmune diseases can cause symptoms of liver disease and are also associated with the development of AIH. These diseases are:

  • Ulcerative colitis;
  • Grave’s disease;
  • Thyroiditis;
  • Type I diabetes;
  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Scleroderma;
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus;
  • Inflammatory bowel disease;
  • Songren’s syndrome.

Treatment of autoimmune hepatitis

Treatment can slow down, stop, and sometimes the liver tissue starts to recover. According to medical statistics, in about 70% of patients, the disease goes into remission. However, it may take 3 years to reach this state.

Immunosuppressive medications can be used to weaken the immune system and thus attack the liver cells. The most commonly used drugs are 6-mercaptopurine and azathioprine. But as immunosuppressive medications, they can compromise the body’s ability to fight other infections.

Corticosteroids, usually in the form of prednisone, can directly treat liver inflammation. They can also act as immunosuppressants. Prednisone is most often taken for a minimum of 18-24 months. Some patients need to continue taking prednisone for the rest of their lives to prevent recurrence of AIH. However, prednisone can cause serious side effects, including diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, and obesity.


A liver transplant can cure AIH. However, the disease can recur even after transplantation.

Complications of Autoimmune Hepatitis

Potential complications of untreated AIH are:

  • Liver failure;
  • Liver damage – cirrhosis;
  • Liver cancer;
  • Increased blood pressure in the portal vein;< /li>
  • Enlarged veins in the stomach and esophagus – esophageal varices;
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen – ascites.

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