- Autoimmune Hepatitis is a chronic inflammation of the liver that is morphological and clinically highly analagous to chronic viral hepatitis but is caused by an autoimmune etiology.
|Etiology and Pathogenesis|
- Autoimmune Hepatitis appears to be an autoimmune disease as patients display a variety of auto-antibodies, pathology improves with immunosuppressive therapy, and there is a high degree of co-morbidity with other autoimmune disorders. The proximate cause of liver injury appears to be due to auto-reactive lymphocytes which can be observed infiltrating the hepatic parenchyma.
- The morphology of autoimmune hepatitis is highly similar to that of chronic viral hepatitis and is characterized by hepatic infiltration with lymphocytes and plasma cells. Over time, chronic disease will evolve into a picture of cirrhosis.
- Clinical and laboratory features of autoimmune hepatitis are similar to those of chronic viral hepatitis. These include nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, anorexia, and malaise as well as liver-specific symptoms such as jaundice well as elevated serum aminotransferases. For many patients disease is mild and undergoes a relapsing and remitting course; however, in others inflammation is severe and progresses within months to irreversible cirrhosis.