Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH)

What is autoimmune hepatitis?

Autoimmune hepatitis is an inflammatory disease the affects the liver when your body’s immune system turns against liver cells.

What causes autoimmune hepatitis?

Autoimmune hepatitis happens when the body’s immune system (which normally attacks viruses and bacteria) instead targets the liver. This results in chronic inflammation which can lead toserious damage to liver cells. Exactly why this happens is unclear. However, researchers believe autoimmune hepatitis could be caused by a combination of the genes controlling immune-system and exposure to certain viruses or drugs.

What are the symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis?

A proportion of people with autoimmune hepatitishave no symptoms. If they do have symptoms, they can range from mild to severe and may include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Jaundice – Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • An enlarged liver
  • Spider angiomas – Abnormal blood vessels on the skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pains

How is autoimmune hepatitis diagnosed?

Autoimmune hepatitis is diagnosed by

  • Blood tests
  • Liver Biopsy

How is autoimmune hepatitis treated?

The main treatment for autoimmune hepatitis is immunosuppressive medications such as:

  • Prednisolone – first medication used to suppress the immune system
  • Azathioprine – may be added to help suppress the immune system
  • Mycophenolate mofetil, Cyclosporine and tacrolimus – are second-line therapies that can be used if the disease is not controlled with prednisolone and azathioprine
  • Liver transplant – for patients who are unresponsive to medications or in cases where the liver has been damaged beyond repair



REMINDER: This information is intended to provide general information and should not be used to base a diagnosis or treatment. Please consult the doctors about your specific condition and the approach for treatment.