Autoimmmune hepatitis is a condition where the body’s immune system attacks the liver. It is not known why this occurs, but is much more common in women than men. If not treated, it usually leads to cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure.
Autoimmune hepatitis usually occurs in women, and presents in either young women or women in their 50s or 60s. People who get it have a genetic predisposition and often have other autoimmune conditions or family members with those conditions, particularly hypothyroidism.
Autoimmune hepatitis can be silent, but during flares of the disease, many symptoms may emerge, including fatigue, abdominal pain, joint pains, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, jaundice and dark urine.
Blood tests are needed to help make the diagnosis, and liver biopsy is almost always required. The disease has periods of flaring up and periods of remission. The diagnosis is often missed or delayed because of this.
Autoimmune hepatitis has a treatment and it involves suppressing part of the immune system using medications. Most people need lifelong therapy, but this allows them to lead normal lives.
Patients with autoimmune hepatitis have to be diagnosed before they can be treated. Without treatment, the disease can progress to cirrhosis in 10 years.