Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC)

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the bile ducts in the liver to become inflamed and damaged and, ultimately, to disappear. Bile is a liquid produced in the liver that travels through the bile ducts to the gallbladder and then the small intestine, where it helps digest fats and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. When the bile ducts become damaged from chronic inflammation, bile builds up in the liver and injures liver tissue. PBC is a disease where the patient’s immune system attacks the bile ducts.

Symptoms

  • Asymptomatic (no symptoms)
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Pain in upper right abdomen
  • Skin discoloration (hyperpigmentation)

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing primary biliary cirrhosis include:

  • Age: between age 40
  • Gender: Female
  • Family history of PBC, parent or sibling
  • People who suffer from autoimmune conditions, such as, rheumatoid arthritis or autoimmune thyroiditis

When to See a Doctor

If you have symptoms you are concerned about and/or are consistent with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, see a doctor for a thorough exam and consultation. Early intervention can slow disease progression and associated liver damage and prevent complications.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for individuals with primary biliary cirrhosis vary and may include the following:

  • Drug therapy: Ursodeoxycholic acid

Diagnostic Testing

The foremost diagnostic “test” for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:

Prevention

PBC cannot be prevented but early treatment does delay disease progression.

Learn More

Learn more about primary biliary cirrhosis with resources from the National Institutes of Health

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