Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
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 working.
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. A liver transplant may be necessary if the liver is severely damaged.