Autoimmune hepatitis


Autoimmune hepatitis is a liver condition characterized by inflammation caused by the immune system attacking liver cells. If left untreated, it can lead to liver failure and scarring of the liver known as cirrhosis. However, early diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune hepatitis often involve the use of immunosuppressive drugs to control the immune system. In cases where drug treatments are ineffective or if the disease has progressed significantly, a liver transplant may be considered as a viable option.
This chronic liver disease originates from an error in the immune system’s function. Instead of targeting infections in the liver tissues, the immune system mistakenly directs antibodies towards healthy liver cells, resulting in inflammation, known as hepatitis. Over time, the persistent inflammation caused by autoimmune hepatitis can cause severe damage to the liver. Similar to other forms of chronic hepatitis, it can lead to the development of cirrhosis. Medical intervention can help manage the inflammation and prevent the occurrence of complications. However, during the early stages of the disease, individuals may not experience noticeable symptoms.

There are two primary forms of autoimmune:

  • Type 1 autoimmune: hepatitis is the most common and can occur at any age. About half of the individuals with type 1 autoimmune hepatitis also have other autoimmune disorders, such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or ulcerative colitis.
  • Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis: while also affecting adults, is more prevalent in children and young people. This type of autoimmune hepatitis may be accompanied by other autoimmune diseases.


Autoimmune hepatitis symptoms can appear rapidly and differ from person to person. In the early stages of the condition, some persons have few, if any, noticeable issues while others show signs and symptoms like:

  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice, yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
  • Enlarged liver and swollen abdomen.
  • Abnormal blood vessels on the skin (spider angiomas)
  • Skin rashes or itchy skin
  • Joint pains
  • Loss of menstrual periods
  • Dark colored pee or pale colored stool
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Confusion, disorientation, or drowsiness

It is recommended to seek medical attention if someone experience any signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis.


Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition where the immune system, typically responsible for targeting viruses and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the liver. This immune attack results in ongoing inflammation and significant damage to liver cells. The exact reasons for this self-directed immune response are not fully understood, but researchers speculate that a combination of genetic factors controlling immune system function and exposure to certain viruses or medications may play a role. In autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune hepatitis, the immune system erroneously identifies the body’s own cells as a threat and continues to attack them, leading to chronic inflammation in a particular area of the body. In the case of autoimmune hepatitis, the immune system produces specific antibodies that target particular types of liver cells.

Risk factors

The following factors could increase the risk of developing autoimmune hepatitis:

  • Gender: Autoimmune hepatitis can affect both sexes, but women are more likely to get the condition.
  • Heredity: There is evidence that autoimmune hepatitis likelihood can occur in families.
  • History of certain infections: Herpes simplex, the Epstein-Barr virus, or the measles can all cause autoimmunity hepatitis. Hepatitis A, B, or C infection is also a factor in the condition.
  • Medications: Nitrofurantoin (for urinary tract infections), Minocycline (for acne), Atorvastatin (for high cholesterol), and Isoniazid (an antibiotic) have all been linked to drug-induced autoimmune hepatitis.
  • Other autoimmune disease: A person may be more susceptible to developing autoimmune hepatitis if they already have an autoimmune condition, such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or hyperthyroidism (Graves disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).