An invaluable resource of health information.
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Primary biliary cirrhosis is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the bile ducts of the liver, which blocks the flow of bile. This obstruction damages liver cells.
- Alternative Names
- Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The cause of inflamed bile ducts in the liver is not known. The disease more commonly affects middle-aged women.
- Signs and tests
Therapy aims to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.
Cholestyramine (or colestipol) may reduce the itching. Ursodeoxycholic acid may improve removal of bile from the bloodstream.
Vitamin replacement therapy restores vitamins A, K, and D, which are lost in fatty stools. A calcium supplement can help prevent soft, weakened bones (osteomalacia).
Liver transplant before liver failure occurs may be successful.
- Expectations (prognosis)
The outcome can vary. If the condition is not treated, most patients will need a liver transplant after about 7 years. Doctors can now use statistics to predict the best time to do the transplant.
- Calling your health care provider
Silveira MG, Lindor KD. Treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis: therapy with choleretic and immunosuppressive agents. Clin Liver Dis. 2008;12:425-443.
Mayo MJ. Natural history of primary biliary cirrhosis. Clin Liver Dis. 2008;12:277-288.
Review Date: 5/20/2008
Reviewed By: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.