Autoimmune Hepatitis

What is the Treatment for Autoimmune Hepatitis?

Some people with mild forms of the disease may not need to take medication to treat autoimmune hepatitis, but only a doctor’s careful assessment can determine whether a particular individual should undergo treatment.

For those individuals requiring treatment, the earlier the diagnosis, the better chance of slowing progress of the disease. Medications used to control the immune system (immunosuppressants) and treat autoimmune hepatitis include the following:

  • Prednisone – A type of steroid/corticosteroid, prednisone is initially dispensed at a high dosage until signs and symptoms improve, at which time the dosage is lowered to the lowest dosage possible to control the disease
  • Azathioprine (Imuran) – Like prednisone, azathioprine is used to suppress the immune system. Azathioprine may be used in conjunction with prednisone which allows a lower dose of prednisone to be used, thereby lowering the risk of side effects or, once the disease is under control, Azathioprine may be added later.
  • Other immunosuppressants – For those individuals that don’t respond to prednisone or azathioprine, stronger immunosuppressants may be prescribed, such as cyclosporine (Sandimmune), mycophenylate mofetil (Cellcept) and tacrolimus (Prograf).
  • Liver transplant – When medications don’t halt the progress of the disease, when irreversible scarring (cirrhosis) develops, or liver failure, liver transplantation is an effective procedure. The disease almost never recurs in the transplanted liver, possibly due in part to powerful drugs used to suppress the immune system to prevent transplant rejection. Transplantation has a one year survival rate of 90 percent and a five year survival rate of 70-80 percent.

Mayo Clinic “Autoimmune Hepatitis” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/autoimmune-hepatitis/DS00676/ Retrieved on February 17, 2011

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases “Autoimmune Hepatitis” http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/autoimmunehep/ Retrieved on February 17, 2011

Palmer, M.D., Melissa. Dr. Melissa Palmer’s Guide to Hepatitis & Liver Disease. New York: Avery Trade, 2004.

Worman, MD Howard J. The Liver Disorders and Hepatitis Sourcebook. McGraw-Hill, 2006

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