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Autoimmune Hepatitis

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Definition & Facts

Autoimmune hepatitis is a chronic disease in which your body’s immune system attacks the liver and causes inflammation and liver damage. Without treatment, autoimmune hepatitis may get worse and lead to complications, such as cirrhosis.

doctor holding pill and talking to a patient

Symptoms & Causes

Common symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis include feeling tired, pain in your joints, nausea, poor appetite, pain over your liver, and jaundice. Some people have no symptoms at the time of diagnosis, but they may develop symptoms later. Experts aren’t sure what causes autoimmune hepatitis.


Doctors diagnose autoimmune hepatitis based on your medical history, a physical exam, blood tests, imaging tests, and liver biopsy. Blood tests can show signs of autoimmune hepatitis or other liver diseases. A doctor can use a liver biopsy to look for the features of autoimmune hepatitis and to check for cirrhosis.


Doctors treat autoimmune hepatitis with medicines that suppress your immune system, most often corticosteroids—prednisone or prednisolone—with or without azathioprine. These medicines may cause side effects. If autoimmune hepatitis leads to liver failure or liver cancer, you may need a liver transplant.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

If autoimmune hepatitis leads to cirrhosis, you should eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Researchers have not found that eating, diet, and nutrition play a role in causing or preventing autoimmune hepatitis.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

Related Diagnostic Tests

View More Liver Disease Information

Related Research

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank John Moore Vierling, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine