Diagnosing Autoimmune Hepatitis

The healthcare provider will begin an autoimmune hepatitis diagnosis by asking a number of questions about the patient's medical history. Some of these questions include his or her symptoms, current medications, and sexual history -- as well as any recent travel he or she has done. After the medical history, the next step in diagnosing autoimmune hepatitis is performing a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis. There are also a number of tests that may help diagnose autoimmune hepatitis (for example, a routine blood test).

How Is Autoimmune Hepatitis Diagnosed?

In order to make a diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis, the healthcare provider will begin by asking a number of questions about your medical history, including questions about:
  • Symptoms
  • Current medical conditions
  • Current medications
  • Family history of medical conditions
  • Any recent travel
  • Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Sexual history.
The healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of autoimmune hepatitis.

Tests Used to Diagnose Autoimmune Hepatitis

If the healthcare provider suspects autoimmune hepatitis, he or she will order certain tests that can help to make the diagnosis. A routine blood test for liver enzymes can help reveal a pattern typical of hepatitis, but further tests -- especially for autoantibodies -- are needed to diagnose autoimmune hepatitis. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses.
In a person with autoimmune hepatitis, the immune system makes antinuclear antibodies (ANA), antibodies against smooth muscle cells (SMA), or liver and kidney microsomes (anti-LKM). The pattern and levels of these antibodies help define the type of autoimmune hepatitis a person has (see Autoimmune Hepatitis Types).
The healthcare provider may also do a liver biopsy. A liver biopsy is a simple test in which the doctor removes a tiny piece of your liver through a needle. The healthcare provider checks the piece of liver for signs of autoimmune hepatitis and liver damage.
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