Autoimmune Hepatitis or AIH

Autoimmune Hepatitis or AIH- In this pathological condition, the body's immune system attacks the liver which, if left untreated, may cause numerous complications like cirrhosis of liver or in some cases liver failure. In this article, we will discuss about the various causes, symptoms, and treatments for Autoimmune Hepatitis.

Autoimmune Hepatitis or AIH

What Is Autoimmune Hepatitis Or AIH?

Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) is a pathological condition in which there is inflammation of the liver due to the body's immune system which attacks the liver. Even though the exact etiology of Autoimmune Hepatitis is not totally clear, there are certain medical conditions, exposure to toxins and medications which can cause Autoimmune Hepatitis in individuals who are prone to it. Autoimmune Hepatitis is usually found more in females.

If Autoimmune Hepatitis or AIH is left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and ultimately liver failure. If it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages, Autoimmune Hepatitis can be controlled with medication which suppresses the body's immune system.

Causes Of Autoimmune Hepatitis Or AIH

As stated above, Autoimmune Hepatitis or AIH is caused due to the body's immune system attacking the liver instead of attacking pathogens and viruses which leads to cirrhosis of the liver. What is the exact cause of the body's immune system turning against the liver is not known; however, researchers are of the opinion that Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) may be as a result of numerous risk factors like infections, medications, and also genetic predisposition to autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) Causes Includes:-

  • Genetic Mutation As a Cause of Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)
    • Predisposes cell biology for autoimmune disease following viral infection and effects of medications.
    • Cellular gene abnormalities triggers autoimmune response during and following extreme biological body stress.
    • Genetic mutation has been linked with autoimmune hepatitis in research studies.A
  • Viral InfectionsC Causing Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)
    • Hepatitis Virus
    • Measles Virus
    • Cytomegalovirus
    • Epstein-Barr virus
    • Chicken Pox B
  • MedicationsC Causing Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)
    • Atrovastatin
    • Diclofenac
    • Methyldopa
    • Minocycline
    • Nirofurantoin

Types Of Autoimmune Hepatitis Or AIH

There Are Two Main Types Of Autoimmune Hepatitis or AIH:

  • Type 1 or Classic Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH): This is supposed to be the most common form of Autoimmune Hepatitis. This can occur at any age. Majority of the people with this form of Autoimmune Hepatitis tend to have other autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis.
  • Type 2 Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH): This form of Autoimmune Hepatitis is seen mostly in young girls and is associated with other autoimmune disorders.

Risk Factors For Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)

Some Of The Risk Factors For Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) Are:

  • Female Gender: Although both males and females can have Autoimmune Hepatitis but is mostly found in females.
  • Age: Classic Autoimmune Hepatitis tends to occur irrespective of age but type 2 form of this disease affects primarily young girls.
  • History of certain infections
  • Use of medications like minocycline or atorvastatin
  • There is some evidence to suggest that Autoimmune Hepatitis runs in families
  • Individuals already affected with other autoimmune disorders are more prone to develop Autoimmune Hepatitis

Symptoms Of Autoimmune Hepatitis Or AIH

Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) Symptoms Includes:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Painful Joints
  • Pruritus
  • Jaundice
  • Hepatomegaly (Enlarged Liver)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Dark colored urine

Diagnosis Of Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)

Tests And Procedures Used To Diagnose Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) Include:

  • Blood Tests: A routine blood draw can identify whether an individual has Autoimmune Hepatitis or Viral Hepatitis. It will also rule out other conditions which produce similar symptoms as that of Autoimmune Hepatitis.
  • Liver Biopsy: A biopsy of the liver will help determine the extent of damage to the liver as a result of Autoimmune Hepatitis.

Treatment For Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)

Irrespective of the type of Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH) that an individual has, the main aim of the treatment is to control symptoms and prevent the body from targeting the liver.

Immunosuppressant Medications- E

  • Prednisone: This drug is used to suppress the immune system of the body. It helps control the symptoms of Autoimmune Hepatitis. Some of the side effects of prednisone are diabetes, osteoporosis, osteonecrosis, hypertension, cataracts, and weight gain.
  • Azathioprine: This is another immune suppressing medication that can be used for Autoimmune Hepatitis. Some of the side effects of Azathioprine are problems with recurrent infections, nausea and rarely liver damage, pancreatitis, and cancer.
  • Other Medications- If the above mentioned two medications are not helpful in controlling the symptoms then there are other medications like CellCept, cyclosporine or Prograf that can also be used to treat Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH).

Liver Transplant

  • If medications become ineffective in treating Autoimmune Hepatitis, then the only option left is a liver transplant.

Complications Of Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)

Some Of The Complications Of Autoimmune Hepatitis Or AIH are:

  • Pernicious Anemia
  • Hemolytic Anemia
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Celiac Disease


A. Pathogen Infection as a Possible Cause for Autoimmune Hepatitis.

Christen U1, Hintermann E.

Int Rev Immunol. 2014 Jun 9.

B. Severe autoimmune hepatitis triggered by varicella zoster infection.

Al-Hamoudi WK.

World J Gastroenterol. 2009 Feb 28;15(8):1004-6.

C. Possible pathomechanism of autoimmune hepatitis.

Prandota J.

Am J Ther. 2003 Jan-Feb;10(1):51-7.

D. Autoimmune liver disease: Novelties in management.

Hadzic N1, Hierro L2.

Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2014 Apr 21.

E. Autoimmune hepatitis.

Strassburg CP.

Dig Dis. 2013;31(1):155-63.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: March 30, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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