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Autoimmune Hepatitis
Liver cells

Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)

AIH is a disease in which the body’s immune system (in this case particular circulating blood cells) attacks the liver cells and causes inflammation (chronic hepatitis). If left untreated hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis (scarring and hardening of the liver) and, eventually, to liver failure.

Symptoms

Although relatively uncommon, this disease is usually quite serious and, if not treated, worsens over time. It can affect both men and women. AIH is typically chronic (long term) and can last for years.

Diagnosis

Following a medical history and full physical examination, diagnosis is usually confirmed by a blood test and liver biopsy.

Treatment

Treatment for AIH is likely to be most effective when it is diagnosed early. For people with only mild forms of the disease no medication may be required.

The main treatment is medicine that suppresses, or slows down, the overactive immune system. This means daily doses of a corticosteroid called prednisone. Another medicine, azathioprine (Imuran) is also used to treat autoimmune hepatitis. Using azathioprine means that a lower dose of prednisone can be given and this means fewer side-effects from treatment.

Prognosis/outlook

Some people can eventually stop treatment, although the disease will return in many cases. For these people treatment with low doses of prednisone or azathioprine may continue to be necessary from time to time.

To arrange a consultation with a liver consultant please contact The Princess Grace Hospital, Liver, Bile Duct and Pancreas Unit