biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a kind of cirrhosis caused by damage to the bile ducts in the liver. Much like other forms of liver disease, PBC
permanently damages the liver as tissue is replaced with scar tissue
(fibrosis). As more scar tissue develops, the structure and function of the
liver are affected.
What causes PBC?
The exact cause of PBC is unknown, but it may be related to a
problem with the
immune system, which is the body's natural defense
What are the symptoms?
Many people who have primary biliary cirrhosis do not have
symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include:
Primary biliary cirrhosis is
suspected based on a medical history, physical exam, and lab tests that show
high levels of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase and antimitochondrial antibodies
(AMA) in the blood. Your doctor may also conduct an imaging test such as an
ultrasound, which shows images of the liver and other
tissues inside the body, and a
biopsy, a procedure done to remove a small piece of
tissue from the liver. Biopsy is the best way to definitively diagnose
How is it treated?
Treatment for primary biliary cirrhosis is difficult, because the
immune system appears to be involved. As with other forms of cirrhosis,
treatment focuses on reducing symptoms, preventing and treating the
complications of the disease, and preventing other conditions that may cause
additional liver damage.
The medicine ursodiol is usually given soon after a diagnosis of primary biliary cirrhosis. Ursodiol helps move bile out of the liver and into the small intestine. If it is used early enough, ursodiol can improve liver function and may keep you from needing a liver transplant. The medicine may also help you live longer.1
If you have fatigue, your doctor will try to find the cause of your tiredness. It may not be caused by PBC. Some medicines have been tried to help with fatigue in PBC, but none have been proved to work well.
PBC can also cause dry eyes and mouth. The best way to help dry eyes is to use eye drops (artificial tears) when your eyes feel dry. A dry mouth can be helped by chewing gum or hard candy to increase saliva. You can also use a saliva substitute. If that doesn't help, there are some medicines that can be used.