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Fatigue is probably the most common symptom of autoimmune hepatitis. Others are enlarged liver, jaundice, itching, skin rashes, joint pain and abdominal discomfort.
People in advanced stages of the disease are more likely to have symptoms such as fluid in the abdomen (ascites) or mental confusion. Women may stop menstruating completely due to autoimmune hepatitis.
Symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis range from mild to severe. Because severe viral hepatitis (caused by a drug or certain antibiotics) has the same symptoms, your doctor will probably need some tests to reach an exact diagnosis. Your doctor should also review and rule out all your medicines before you get diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis.
Diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis
Your doctor will probably make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, blood tests, and liver biopsy; this is necessary if he wants to diagnose you with certainty. Routine blood test for liver enzymes can help reveal a pattern typical of hepatitis. Further tests, especially for auto-antibodies are something your doctor might need to diagnose autoimmune hepatitis. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses, but in autoimmune hepatitis, the immune system makes antinuclear antibodies to smooth muscle cells or liver and kidney microsomes. The pattern and level of these antibodies help define the type of autoimmune hepatitis, whether you have autoimmune hepatitis type I or type II. Blood tests also help distinguish autoimmune hepatitis from viral hepatitis such as hepatitis B or C, or a metabolic disease such as Wilson’s disease.
Liver biopsy is procedure in which the doctor takes a tiny sample of your liver tissue, and examines it under a microscope. This diagnostic method can help accurately diagnose autoimmune hepatitis, and tell how serious it is. You will go to a hospital or outpatient surgical facility for this procedure, and get an appropriate diagnosis.