Primary Biliary Cirrhosis

(PBC)

Definition

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic condition inside the liver. It is swelling in a part of the liver called bile ducts. Over time, this swelling can cause permanent damage to the bile ducts.The liver creates a fluid called bile. The fluid is sent out of the liver through bile ducts. The bile then moves to the gallbladder and the small intestine. Bile helps break down food in the intestines. PBC makes it difficult for bile to move out of the liver. The bile is not able to pass through the damaged bile ducts. As a result, the bile backs up into the liver. This leads to liver damage.
Bile Ducts
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Causes

The exact cause of PBC is unknown. It appears to be an autoimmune disorder. This means the immune system is attacking health tissue. It is not known what causes an autoimmune reaction. It is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Risk Factors

PBC is more common in women. Other factors that may increase your chance of PBC include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of PBC include:
  • Fatigue
  • Itchy skin
  • Abdominal pain, especially in right upper abdomen
  • Signs of liver damage:
    • Yellowing of the skin and/or eyes—jaundice
    • Spider veins
    • Xanthelasma—yellow deposits around eyelids

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests will help to determine the extent of liver problems. They may also help look for causes like a hepatitis infection or autoimmune disorder. A liver biopsy will also help determine how much liver damage has occurred. Detailed pictures of the bile ducts may be needed. To get these pictures, your doctor may order:

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