Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic disease that slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver. Bile is a fluid produced in your liver. It aids in digesting food and helps your body get rid of old red blood cells and other toxins. With PBC, the bile ducts are damaged and detrimental substances will build in your liver and can lead to irreversible scarring of liver tissue, known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis prevents blood from the intestines from returning to the heart.
PBC is considered a chronic condition because if left untreated, it becomes life-threatening. At one point, PBC was considered a rare condition, but has seen an increase in number of people affected through the years.
There is no known cause of PBC. The only thing that doctors do know is that the condition is an autoimmune condition. The immune system is known as the body’s own personal defense system, so in the case of PBC, it’s as though the immune system attacks the body instead of protecting it. With PBC, the immune system attacks the bile ducts directly.
Genetics have been associated with PBC, and it is noted to be familiar in siblings, but this is not a determined fact. Immune conditions are considered to be genetic, so the association of PBC to genetics is common.
- Fatigue – the most common symptom of PBC. People who feel increasingly tired or constantly out of energy.
- Abdominal Pain – a striking pain. Sometimes feels like someone is pushing the area, or even a sharp stinging sensation
- Dry Eyes/Dry Mouth
- Jaundice – the yellowing of your eyes and skin. This occurs because with PBC, there is an increase of bilirubin in the blood.
- Darkening of the Skin
- Arthritis and Thyroid Problems
- Renal Stones
- Fatty Deposits Around the Eyes, Palms or Soles
- Weakened or Thinning Bones
There isn’t yet any single cure for PBC, only treatments that attempt to slow down the disease and help relieve symptoms.
The most frequently used treatment used for PBC is Ursodeoxycholic acid. This acid is used to help reduce cholestasis and improve blood tests. Improved blood tests show that the disease is not progressing, and it being kept under control with the acid.
Liver transplants are also options for treatment. It is considered only when other treatments have failed to control the cirrhosis. When the liver seems to be failing, a transplant is the next option. Liver transplants are exceedingly successful forms of treatment, but in order to get one a very thorough diagnosis is done to determine the need of a transplant. In order to be put on a transplant list, doctors will perform various tests and examine different parts of the liver.
The process of a liver transplant is the removal of a damaged liver replaced with another from someone who has recently deceased. Liver transplants for PBC are used to prolong life in those who haven’t seen any success from less invasive treatments. Though PBC is noted to come back in the new liver as well, it takes a very long time until it redevelops and causes harm to the body.
The earlier PBC is treated, the better the chances of slowing it’s progression. Doctors might recommend medicine to help with symptoms like itching and fatigue. Dry eyes and mouth can be treated with eye drops and candy or gum to increase saliva.
Most treatments of PBC are just treatments for symptoms, to ease bothersome conditions that come with the disease.
Other treatments to prevent worsening the condition include:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Eating a balanced diet
- Taking Vitamins
The doctors at West Medical are skilled in treating chronic conditions like PBC with comprehensive care and attention. We are here to make sure that each individual patient is diagnosed thoroughly, and are determined to assess each case with the utmost care.
PBC is an important condition that is best treated with early detection. If you think you might suffer from PBC or have more questions about the condition, want a blood tests or to learn more about treatment options, call West Medical at (855) 690-0565 to schedule an appointment! We look forward to hearing from you!
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