Summary: Primary biliary cholangitis is a liver disease where the immune system attacks the bile ducts. Without care, it can harm the liver and its function.

Highly important to the body, the liver conducts a number of key duties in the gastric tract, such as removing unwanted by-products from the blood, processing glucose, and housing vitamins and minerals. Within the liver, narrow canals called bile ducts to move the digestive fluid bile to the small intestine to help with the digestion of food. In the event these ducts become occluded or damaged, the liver’s ability to function becomes impaired. One known disorder that can damage the bile ducts is an autoimmune disease called primary biliary cholangitis (PBC).

Since September is Primary Biliary Cholangitis Awareness Month, we wish to educate the community about this rare but concerning liver disease. The majority of the time, individuals diagnosed with primary biliary cholangitis are women between 40 – 60 years of age, although men along with women younger than age 40 could also develop the disorder. When left untreated, the disease could end up causing liver failure and require a liver transplant.

Detecting the condition early is central to experiencing the most optimal health result. A gastrointestinal (GI) doctor can detect PBC and identify treatment protocols that can help reduce the speed of disease progression. To learn more or to review your risk for developing primary biliary cholangitis, contact GI Associates & Endoscopy Center. Our Jackson, MS digestive health doctors can provide expert care and help you manage the condition.

What causes PBC?

Primary biliary cholangitis is an uncommon autoimmune condition that develops a patient’s overactive immune system attacks healthy bile ducts. When this occurs, it leads to inflammation that incrementally traumatizes the bile ducts. In the event that bile is unable to proceed into the small bowel, it collects in the liver and leads to organ damage. Primary biliary cholangitis was formerly known as primary biliary cirrhosis, but the name was modified to set it apart from liver disease related to alcohol and drug use. Though the specific causes of PBC remain unknown, medical experts think the body’s autoimmune response might be activated by environmental or genetic concerns.

Symptoms of primary biliary cholangitis

During the beginning course of the disease, PBC will likely present no apparent symptoms. As such, it is vital to schedule periodic lab testing that assesses how the liver is functioning. Patients who do have symptoms of PBC often exhibit:

  • Pruritis (itchy skin)
  • Dry eyes
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • Exhaustion

As the liver condition becomes worse, the damage to the liver may lead to cirrhosis, a situation where advanced scarring builds up in the organ and affects its ability to function as normal. The clinical indications of severe liver damage are:

  • Edema or swollen ankles and feet
  • Loss of weight
  • Discomfort in the abdomen
  • Yellowing of the skin or jaundice
  • Xanthomas or skin lesions containing cholesterol or fat

Should you or a family member have any of these indications, please get specialized help as early as possible. You can speak with a GI doctor near you by calling GI Associates & Endoscopy Center. We provide care for individuals in the Jackson, MS area diagnosed with PBC and additional liver concerns.

How is primary biliary cholangitis diagnosed?

A gastrointestinal specialist can screen individuals for PBC by measuring specific markers in the blood that provide information about how well the liver is functioning. Greater quantities of the ALP (alkaline phosphatase), an enzyme, and the presence of AMAs (antimitochondrial antibodies) could point to the presence of PBC. Advanced imaging could also be conducted to get a closer look at the bile ducts and liver to assess for evidence of damaged tissue. Such diagnostic tests may help rule out other types of liver dysfunction. In instances where a diagnosis is still undetermined, a liver tissue biopsy can be carried out. Throughout the course of a biopsy, a small sampling of the liver tissue is removed and forwarded to a medical laboratory to be analyzed by a pathology specialist.

What are the treatments for PBC?

Although there is no treatment to cure primary biliary cholangitis, certain medications could help decelerate the advancement of the liver problem. Ursodiol, a naturally occurring bile acid, is commonly administered to help facilitate bile flow from the liver to the small bowel. If it is administered early in the course of the disease, the medication might improve the liver's ability to function and possibly postpone the need to undergo liver transplantation. PBC symptoms, such as dry eyes, itchy skin, and high cholesterol levels, may additionally be addressed and managed by taking medication.

Get treatment for PBC in Jackson, MS

If you or someone you love is experiencing PBC, know that specialized help is available from GI Associates & Endoscopy Center. Featuring an experienced team of digestive health specialists, GI Associates & Endoscopy Center offers cutting-edge treatments and forward-thinking care for digestive issues, including primary biliary cholangitis. For further details surrounding primary biliary cholangitis or to explore treatment options, reach out to our practice in Jackson, MS today.

Article Reference Source: Intercept

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