Primary biliary cirrhosis affects women more often than men and is a progressive disease that inflames the tiny bile ducts within the liver causing damage that ultimately destroys them. Bile is produced in the liver and flows through these bile ducts into the region of the gallbladder and aids in digestion.
When these bile based ducts become destroyed, it causes this bile to become backed up into the liver and causes damage to the tissues of the liver replacing the healthy tissue with scar tissue that causes the impairment of liver functioning.
When primary biliary cirrhosis is diagnosed in the early stages, treatment can be given to delay its progression, however, the disease will still continue to slowly progress eventually causing the liver to become permanently damaged by scar tissue and eventually cease functioning.
Causes and Symptoms of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
What exactly causes primary biliary cirrhosis is unknown; however, researchers and medical experts believe it is most likely associated with an autoimmune based condition in which the immunity of an individual malfunctions in such a way as it begins attacking the body’s healthy tissues and the bile ducts in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.
This disease has also been known to run in families where a parent or even a sibling has also suffered from this disorder; therefore, it may also be an inherited disease making certain individuals more prone to developing this condition.
Typically, symptoms do not occur in the early stages of primary biliary cirrhosis and it is often not diagnosed until an individual has had routine blood tests that have shown a problem with liver functioning.
When symptoms do occur with this condition the primary signs are fatigue with an overall general feeling of tiredness, and the skin becomes very itchy in certain areas and causes a darkening of the skin in those areas that have been scratched. Other symptoms that may occur include dryness in the eyes and mouth and the condition of jaundice which causes a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Complications of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
Primary biliary cirrhosis is progressive disease that eventually causes significant damage to the liver causing other health complications that can include osteoporosis which is a condition that causes the bones to become fragile and break easily, portal hypertension that causes pressure to build within the portal vein, maldigestion that is caused by the inability of the intestinal track to absorb fats and vitamins that are fat-soluble that can result in diarrhea and weight loss, edema which is swelling that typically occurs in the legs and ankles due to the build up of excess fluids, easy bleeding due to a lack of protein being produced by the liver that is needed for clotting, and numerous other conditions and diseases that are associated with serious liver disease.
Treatment of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
In the early stages of this disease, treatment typically consists of controlling the signs and symptoms and includes vitamin supplements, calcium supplements, and prescription medications to relieve itching.
While there is no cure or treatment that can stop the progression of this disease, there is a drug available called “Ursodiol” that has been approved by the FDA and has proven effect in slowing down or delaying its progression, hence, also slowing down the progression of damage being done to the liver delaying liver failure.