Autoimmune Hepatitis - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Autoimmune hepatitis refers to a condition in which the liver becomes inflamed due to the attack of the body's immune system.

The immune system is responsible for fighting off different pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, etc. Sometimes, the immune system cannot differentiate between a pathogen and the body's cells and starts to attack these cells, resulting in different autoimmune diseases. In autoimmune hepatitis, the liver gets affected.  

Autoimmune hepatitis can become long-standing, also known as chronic autoimmune hepatitis, and can turn into Cirrhosis- Fibrosis of the liver.

Symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis:

Some signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis develop suddenly (acute), and some show up after a long period. 

Acute signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis include:

  • Fatigue

  • Fever

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

  • Itching

  • Abdominal pain

The signs and symptoms that develop after a long time can include:

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting 

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Weight loss

  • Diarrhea 

  • Clay-colored stools

  • Enlarged liver

  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen 

  • Swelling of the feet

  • Menstrual abnormalities 

  • Mental problems like confusion, loss of consciousness, etc.

Risk factors for getting autoimmune hepatitis:

Risk factors that increase the chances of getting autoimmune hepatitis are:

Gender: Females are more likely to develop autoimmune hepatitis than males.

Genes: Your genes play an important role in developing different diseases. Having a family history of autoimmune hepatitis increases the risk in that individual too.

History of infections: Autoimmune hepatitis can develop after different infections, such as viral hepatitis.

Autoimmune diseases: Individuals who have autoimmune diseases like SLE, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. are more likely to develop autoimmune hepatitis.

Complications of autoimmune hepatitis:

Autoimmune hepatitis can turn into cirrhosis, which has its complications like:

Esophageal varices: This means enlargement of little veins in the esophagus. When the blood flow through the portal circulation is compromised, it results in the pooling of blood in the esophageal vein causing their enlargement.

Variceal bleeding: Esophageal varices can rupture due to an increased amount of blood as they are thin-walled. Massive bleeding can cause significant blood loss and can be life-threatening.

Ascites: This means accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. Increased pressure in the portal vein causes fluid to leak out in the abdomen. If an infection develops in the accumulated fluid, it can result in spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP), and the infection can spread to other organs.

Hepatic encephalopathy: The liver is responsible for clearing out toxins from the body. When the liver function deteriorates, it results in the accumulation of toxins that affect the brain, causing alteration of mental status. This condition is referred to as hepatic encephalopathy. 

Hepatic failure: Chronic inflammation of the liver can result in a significant decrease in liver function, a condition known as liver failure. 

Treatment of autoimmune hepatitis:

The treatment of autoimmune hepatitis is usually focused on reducing the autoimmune response. For this, immunosuppressant drugs are given such as prednisone. Complications of autoimmune hepatitis are treated accordingly. If the liver is damaged a lot, a liver transplant may be suggested.


Autoimmune hepatitis is a condition that affects the liver. If detected and treated on time, autoimmune hepatitis can be managed, and the damage can be controlled. If you notice any signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis, consult your healthcare provider.

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