Children's Hospital Colorado

Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)

What is autoimmune hepatitis?

Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is a disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy liver cells, resulting in liver injury and scarring. AIH can be serious and if not treated, can cause cirrhosis or liver failure.

What causes autoimmune hepatitis?

Certain genetic factors can increase the risk developing an autoimmune disease like AIH. Diseases like AIH are also often triggered by environmental factors such as an infection. A viral infection, for example, can initiate a liver injury and result in an immune-mediated attack on the liver.

In addition to infections triggering the immune system to attack the liver, people with AIH may have also recently used certain medicines, or have a family history of other autoimmune disorders. These can include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, thyroid disease or lupus erythematosus.

Who gets autoimmune hepatitis?

AIH affects all ages, genders and ethnicities. However, it is more common in girls than it is in boys. Family history of another autoimmune disease also increases chances of having AIH, which suggests there is an underlying genetic risk as well.

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