Symptoms & Causes of Autoimmune Hepatitis

What are the symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis?

People with autoimmune hepatitis may have some of the following symptoms

If you have symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis, they can range from mild to severe.

Many people with autoimmune hepatitis have no symptoms. In such cases, doctors may find you have signs of liver problems during routine blood tests, and this may lead to a diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis. People without symptoms at diagnosis may develop symptoms later.

Some people with autoimmune hepatitis don’t have symptoms until they develop complications due to cirrhosis. These symptoms include

  • feeling tired or weak
  • losing weight without trying
  • swelling of the abdomen from a buildup of fluid, called ascites
  • swelling of the lower legs, ankles, or feet, called edema
  • itchy skin
  • jaundice
  • vomiting blood if cirrhosis leads to enlarged veins in the esophagus, called esophageal varices, and those varices burst
  • confusion or difficulty thinking if cirrhosis leads to a buildup of toxins in the brain, called hepatic encephalopathy

What causes autoimmune hepatitis?

Experts aren’t sure what causes autoimmune hepatitis. Studies suggest that certain genes make some people more likely to develop autoimmune diseases. In people with these genes, factors in the environment may trigger an autoimmune reaction that causes their immune system to attack the liver.

Researchers are still studying the environmental triggers that play a role in autoimmune hepatitis. These triggers may include certain viruses and medicines.

Some medicines can cause liver injury that resembles autoimmune hepatitis. In most cases, the liver injury goes away when the medicine is stopped. Telling your doctor the names of all the medicines you take, even over-the-counter medicines or herbal or botanical products, is important.

Last Reviewed March 2023
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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. 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 NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.