Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease in which the body's immune system attacks liver cells. This immune response causes inflammation of the liver, also called hepatitis. Researchers think a genetic factor may make some people more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. About 70 percent of those with autoimmune hepatitis are female.
The disease is usually quite serious and, if not treated, gets worse over time. Autoimmune hepatitis is typically chronic, meaning it can last for years, and can lead to cirrhosis—scarring and hardening—of the liver. Eventually, liver failure can result.
Autoimmune hepatitis is classified as type 1 or type 2. Type 1 is the most common form in North America. It can occur at any age but most often starts in adolescence or young adulthood. About half of those with type 1 have other autoimmune disorders, such as
- type 1 diabetes
- proliferative glomerulonephritis, an inflammation of blood vessels in the kidneys
- thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland
- Graves' disease, the leading cause of overactive thyroid
- Sjögren's syndrome, a syndrome that causes dry eyes and mouth
- autoimmune anemia
- ulcerative colitis, an inflammation of the colon and rectum leading to ulcers
Type 2 autoimmune hepatitis is less common, typically affecting girls aged 2 to 14, although adults can have it too.
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