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Understanding Primary Biliary Cholangitis

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PBC is a chronic liver disease. Presumed to be an autoimmune condition, it could lead to end-stage liver disease. PBC was formerly called Primary Biliary Cirrhosis.


How Does PBC Build Up?

If the liver faces a buildup of bile, it will block the outgoing bile ducts from the liver over time. It will ultimately wreck the bile ducts. The disease will progress and affect liver cells, causing cirrhosis and failure eventually.

Bile is a key fluid in human digestion. It operates by assisting the absorption of fats, vitamins, and cholesterol from the food. It contains bile acid which helps digestion. It also helps flush out some waste products, bilirubin for example.

If the bile ducts that carry bile out of the liver get blocked, the fluid, as well as all the waste it transports, is forced to stay in the liver. Over time, this accumulation begins corroding the liver cells and causes inflammation.

Inflamed liver cells turn into scarred ones. Fibrosis and cirrhosis follow, ultimately making the organ inch closer to failure. Of course, as is in every case of chronic end-stage liver disease, the process is gradual and takes time.

Causes of Primary Biliary Cholangitis

Women between forty and sixty years, as per recent reports, are more likely to be diagnosed with PBC. Also, women have a nine times higher chance of getting PBC than men. However, people of all genders have been diagnosed out of the given age range.

PBC may also have some inheritance links, considering how it has probable immunity connections and many patients have had family members, mostly mothers, who suffered from it.

Symptoms of PBC

Symptoms either won’t appear or will show up after the disease has progressed to a dangerous level. They may include fatigue, itching, jaundice, dry eyes, dry mouth, vaginal dryness, and abdominal discomfort.

With a more advanced condition, symptoms will also change. They may involve ascites(fluid buildup in the abdomen), variceal bleeding, and osteoporosis.

How Is PBC Diagnosed?

Physical exams, medical history, and lab tests come in handy when a doctor is trying to suspect the existence of Primary Biliary Cholangitis. If the lab test shows a heightened level of antimitochondrial antibodies and alkaline phosphatase enzyme in the blood, the doctors may conduct other tests like ultrasound and a biopsy to rest their doubts at ease.

Treatments for PBC

Because of an active involvement of immune system, in this case, finding a cure has proved a bit of a challenge. However, the onset of cirrhosis can be slowed down with the use of precautions, medications, and treating the complications.

Ocaliva and Ursodiol are two most commonly prescribed medicines. They help prompt the movement of bile into the small intestine and out of the liver. Ocaliva also decreases the quantity of bile acid produced by the liver.

The symptoms can be treated with suitable drugs. Eye drops are used to deal with dry eyes. Drugs are used to ease itching. Vitamins and calcium are suggested for osteoporosis.

A liver transplant is the last option. However, it does not guarantee complete elimination of PBC, and a recurrence always remains a threat.

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