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Autoimmune hepatitis is liver inflammation that occurs when your body’s immune system turns against liver cells. The exact cause of autoimmune hepatitis is unclear, but genetic and enviromental factors appear to interact over time in triggering the disease.
Untreated autoimmune hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and eventually to liver failure. When diagnosed and treated early, however, autoimmune hepatitis often can be controlled with drugs that suppress the immune system.
A liver transplant may be an option when autoimmune hepatitis doesn’t respond to drug treatments or in cases of advanced liver disease.
Signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis vary from person to person and may come on suddenly. Some people have few, if any, recognized problems in the early stages of the disease, whereas others experience signs and symptoms that may include:
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the body’s immune system, which ordinarily attacks viruses, bacteria and other pathogens, instead targets the liver. This attack on your liver can lead to chronic inflammation and serious damage to liver cells. Just why the body turns against itself is unclear, but researchers think autoimmune hepatitis could be caused by the interaction of genes controlling immune system function and exposure to particular viruses or drugs.
Doctors have identified two main forms of autoimmune hepatitis.
Factors that may increase your risk of autoimmune hepatitis include:
Esophageal varices are enlarged veins in the lower esophagus. They’re often due to obstructed blood flow through the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestine and spleen to the liver.
Autoimmune hepatitis that goes untreated can cause permanent scarring of the liver tissue (cirrhosis). Complications of cirrhosis include:
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