Autoimmune Hepatitis

At the Henry Ford Liver Disease Center, we are one of the largest liver centers in the Michigan. Our team is able to provide wide-ranging expertise and the advanced, innovative treatments needed to help you take back control of your health.

What is autoimmune hepatitis?

Autoimmune hepatitis is an autoimmune disease where the body’s own immune system attacks the liver. Autoimmune hepatitis is usually chronic and without treatment, can cause inflammation and damage to the liver. This can lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring) and liver failure.

What is an autoimmune disease?

When your immune system is working properly, it sends out white blood cells containing antibodies, proteins that help fight off infection, to protect the body. But if you have an autoimmune disease, the body can no longer tell the difference between healthy tissue and harmful substances, like viruses and cancer cells, and instead attacks normal tissues.

Autoimmune hepatitis is just one of more than 80 autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune hepatitis causes and risk factors

Although scientists do not yet know the exact underlying cause of autoimmune hepatitis, things that can trigger it include:

  • Already having an autoimmune disorder, like lupus or sarcoidosis
  • Environmental triggers, like infections or medications
  • Your genes
  • Family history of autoimmune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus

Autoimmune hepatitis occurs in people of all ages and ethnicities.

Autoimmune hepatitis symptoms

Symptoms may appear progressively or suddenly and range from minor to severe. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tenderness in the liver
  • Aching joints
  • Itchy hives
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of menstruation

How is autoimmune hepatitis diagnosed?

At the Henry Ford Liver Disease Center, we are one of the Midwest’s leaders in liver disease care. That’s because we combine innovative diagnostic techniques with the expertise of highly skilled specialists to quickly and accurately diagnose autoimmune hepatitis. Our advanced tools include:

  • Blood tests: Identify the presence of autoantibodies (immune system antibodies that attack your liver)
  • FibroScan: We are one of the only liver disease centers in Michigan with FibroScan, a noninvasive way to measure the severity, or stage, of the scar tissue in your liver.
  • Liver biopsy: Your liver specialist will insert a thin needle into your liver and remove a small tissue sample for laboratory analysis.

Learn more about liver disease diagnosis at Henry Ford.

Autoimmune hepatitis prevention and treatments at Henry Ford

We are considered regional leaders in the care of autoimmune hepatitis patients, offering the full range of treatments in one convenient location. Our multidisciplinary team will carefully consider every aspect of your health and circumstances when designing a personalized treatment plan for you. We then continue to stay with you throughout the life your disease. Our treatments include:

Medications: If caught early enough, autoimmune hepatitis can usually be managed with drugs that suppress the immune system, like prednisone.

Innovative research and clinical trials: We were one of the first liver disease centers to show that mycophenolate (immunosuppressant drug originally designed to prevent organ rejection after transplant) is an effective treatment for autoimmune hepatitis.

Robust liver transplant program: In rare cases when medications don’t control your disease, liver transplant may be a treatment option. We are the only center in the state that routinely performs living-donor transplants.

Learn more about our treatments at Henry Ford.

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