The course of autoimmune hepatitis depends on the disease severity, and some patients require long-term treatment because it causes inflammation and liver damage, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Certain patients with mild diseases do not require treatment, and some go into disease remission.
The diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis is made based on symptoms, a physical exam, laboratory tests and a liver biopsy, explains NIDDK. The most common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, nausea, loss of appetite, pain and discomfort of the liver, skin rashes, dark or yellow urine, light-colored stools, and yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Laboratory tests check for specific markers that identify autoimmune hepatitis and help distinguish between other liver diseases that have similar symptoms, including viral hepatitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, steatohepatitis and Wilson’s disease.
A liver biopsy is a procedure during which the doctor removes a piece of liver tissue and sends it to a pathologist who looks at it under a microscope, describes NIDDK. The results of the biopsy include information about the extent and type of liver damage, and are useful in the diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis. The treatment of autoimmune hepatitis includes the use of medications that suppress the immune system and a liver transplant in patients with liver failure.