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Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH)

Autoimmune liver disease, chronic inflammatory liver disease

Autoimmune hepatitis is when the immune system attacks the liver cells causing inflammation, cirrhosis and liver damage.


Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is an uncommon but serious, chronic condition where your body's immune system attacks the liver cells, causing inflammation of the liver. If left untreated, it can lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis and eventually liver failure and liver cancer. If you are concerned you may have AIH, we can help test for, diagnose and manage it.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) icon plus

    It's common to have no symptoms at the early stage. When they occur, symptoms are often non-specific so your consultant may not immediately attribute them to liver disease. The most common symptoms are: - fatigue - joint or muscle pain - low appetite - nausea - itching (pruritus) - skin rash - stomach pain or bloating - diarrhoea - excessive hair growth (usually in women) - absent periods or menstruation cycle (amenorrhoea) More severe symptoms may include: - build-up of fluid in the legs, feet and ankles (oedema) or the abdomen (ascites) - confusion (hepatic encephalopathy) - jaundice - bruising - abnormal blood vessels on the skin - dark urine - pale, fatty floating stools
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant may recommend tests to aid diagnosis. Diagnosis is made via a combination of an assessment of your medical history, a physical examination, as well as: - Blood tests to quantify immunoglobulins (proteins produced by your immune cells) and autoantibodies (proteins which are markers of this condition) - Liver function tests (LFTs) ‒ blood tests that quantify alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST), indicators of liver inflammation - A liver biopsy if required, where a tiny piece of your liver is taken to determine the cause of disease - Transient elastography which scans for liver fibrosis (scarring) levels
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Once you have been diagnosed with AIH, treatment is almost always needed. The type of treatment used is immunosuppression, which reduces how active your immune system is, in order to control the severity of liver inflammation. Reducing liver inflammation can improve your symptoms, reduce cirrhosis and help prevent liver failure over the longer term. Immunosuppression can be achieved by using a combination of medications. Your consultant will discuss your treatment options and help to determine the best approach for you. Treatment for AIH typically includes the use of corticosteroids,mainly prednisolone, and the immunosuppressant azathioprine. options for autoimmune hepatitis are likely to be most effective if you've been diagnosed early. The main option is medicine that suppresses or slows down your immune system. This could include daily doses of a corticosteroid. HPB consultant will discuss your other treatment options with you.
Consultant with patient

Our consultants

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

Our facilities

From complex surgery to straightforward procedures, we provide exceptional care across our network of hospitals, outpatient centres and specialist clinics.

  • facility-pgh-hero-579x579

    The Princess Grace Hospital

    42-52 Nottingham Place

    London W1U 5NY

    Appointments 020 3131 7216
    Enquiries 020 3130 6833

  • Wellington-south-hero-facility-582-582

    The Wellington Hospital

    Wellington Place

    London NW8 9LE

    Appointments 0207 483 5148
    Enquiries 020 3131 7478

  • London Bridge Hospital Facility

    London Bridge Hospital

    27 Tooley Street


    SE1 2PR

    Appointments and Enquiries 020 7234 2009
    Imaging Appointments 020 7234 2773
    Switchboard 020 7407 3100

  • facility-HSC-flag-hero-582x582

    The Harley Street Clinic

    35 Weymouth Street


    W1G 8BJ

    Appointments 020 7034 8181
    Enquiries 020 3131 7962

  • The Lister Hospital Facility

    The Lister Hospital

    Chelsea Bridge Road


    SW1W 8RH

    Appointments 020 7811 4000
    Enquiries 020 3131 4978

Request an appointment

We're happy to help you make an appointment with one of our experienced consultants.

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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