Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
Primary biliary cirrhosis is a liver disease that slowly destroys
the bile ducts in the liver. Bile, a substance that helps digest
fat, leaves the liver through these ducts. When the ducts are
damaged, bile builds up in the liver and damages liver tissue. Over
time, the disease can cause cirrhosis and may make the liver stop
The cause of primary biliary cirrhosis is unknown. The disease
affects women more often than men, and usually occurs between the
ages of 30 and 60 years. Some research suggests that the disease
might be caused by a problem within the immune system.
The most common symptoms of primary biliary cirrhosis are itchy
skin and fatigue. Other symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the
eyes and skin), cholesterol deposits on the skin, fluid retention,
and dry eyes or mouth. Some people with primary biliary cirrhosis
also have osteoporosis, arthritis, and thyroid problems.
Primary biliary cirrhosis is diagnosed through laboratory tests,
x rays, and in some cases, a liver biopsy (a simple operation to
remove a small piece of liver tissue). Treatment may include taking
vitamin and calcium supplements, hormone therapy, and medicines to
relieve symptoms. Ursodiol is beneficial for patients with primary
biliary cirrhosis although it does not cure the disease. A liver
transplant may be necessary if the liver is severely damaged.
American Liver Foundation (ALF)
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