Autoimmune hepatitis is a long-term disease that makes the body's defenses (immune system) attack the liver. This causes liver inflammation and damage. Sometimes chemicals, certain medicines, or a virus can cause cells in your body to attack your liver. Some people, such as those who have other autoimmune diseases, may be more likely to get this disease. And women get it more often than men.
It can cause tiredness, belly discomfort, and itchy skin. You may also have diarrhea and fluid buildup in your belly (ascites). Your skin and eyes may look yellow. This is called jaundice. And you may not want to eat, so you may lose weight. But there are medicines you can take to keep your liver damage from getting worse.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
- Lower your activity to match your energy.
- Avoid alcohol for as long as your doctor tells you to. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counseling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help you stay sober.
- Make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you take. Some medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can make liver problems worse. Do not take any new medicines, and do not stop taking prescribed medicines, unless your doctor says it is okay.
- Follow your doctor's instructions about your diet. You may need a low-salt diet. Salt is in many prepared foods, such as bacon, canned foods, snack foods, sauces, and soups. Look for reduced-salt products.
- If you have itchy skin, keep cool and stay out of the sun. It may help to wear cotton clothing. Talk to your doctor about medicines that can be used for itching.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have trouble breathing.
- You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You feel very sleepy or confused.
- You have a fever.
- There is a new or increasing yellow tint to your skin or the whites of your eyes.
- You have new or worse belly pain.
- You have any abnormal bleeding, such as:
- Vaginal bleeding that is different (heavier, more frequent, at a different time of the month) than what you are used to.
- Bloody or black stools, or rectal bleeding.
- Bloody or pink urine.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You have any problems.
- Your belly is getting bigger.
- You are gaining weight.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter W278 in the search box to learn more about "Autoimmune Hepatitis: Care Instructions".
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London MD - Hepatology