Autoimmune Hepatitis (AIH)

What is AIH?

Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is a chronic disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy liver cells, causing inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can damage the liver, potentially leading to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver failure.

Who is at risk for developing AIH?

About 70% of all AIH patients are women and AIH usually appears between 30 and 50 years of age. Patients with other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s colitis), and Sjogren’s syndrome are also at higher risk for developing AIH. Occasionally, AIH is seen in conjunction with other autoimmune liver diseases such as primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).

How do I know if I have AIH?

Often, symptoms of AIH can occur suddenly and include fever, fatigue, and pain in the upper right abdomen. However, many patients are completely asymptomatic and are only found to have AIH during a routine blood test.

To make a diagnosis of AIH, doctors will often combine clinical findings, laboratory tests, and liver biopsy results. Certain blood markers, such as an anti-smooth muscle antibody (SMA) or antinuclear antibody (ANA), can suggest AIH. However, a biopsy is often required to differentiate AIH from other liver diseases and confirm diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for AIH?

Treatment for AIH primarily involves suppressing the immune system. This can be accomplished with oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone or budesonide, to induce remission. Chronic treatment with other immunosuppressants like azathioprine is usually required to prevent relapses. In most cases, AIH responds to these standard treatments. Patients that do not respond may require liver transplant.

New treatments that do not have the potentially harmful side effects of current treatments or that improve the response in patients that cannot tolerate or do not respond to current treatments are desperately needed.

Are there any AIH clinical trials currently recruiting at UC Davis?

Click here to see our active clinical trials for AIH.

Do I qualify for an AIH clinical trial?

Each clinical trial we offer is a little bit different and the eligibility criteria for each study can vary considerably. You can view eligibility criteria for each study on the website link above, or contact our Clinical Trials Unit to see if we have a clinical trial that you might qualify for. If you qualify for more than one, we can help you decide which trial is the best for your individual situation. If you don’t qualify, we may have an observational study opportunity available, since the eligibility criteria are typically less restrictive. Some of our observational studies are paid opportunities, as well.

Are there other resources available?

The following list contains links to websites with helpful information for AIH patients: