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Your liver helps your body digest food and removes toxins from your blood. Bile, a fluid that your liver makes, helps with these actions.
Bile moves into your body through small bile ducts inside your liver known as the intrahepatic bile ducts.
PBC is a disease that destroys these bile ducts over time. When bile can no longer move through the ducts, liver damage occurs.
PBC is not a very common disease.
It affects about:
It's not clear why some people get PBC. Doctors think it's an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system attacks the liver.
Researchers don't think parents pass PBC to their children through gene changes, but it sometimes occurs in several family members.
PBC is more common in women than men, especially women over the age of 40.
If you have PBC, you're at higher risk for other health issues like:
Our liver experts:
If you have PBC, you might not know it. Some people have no symptoms at all.
As liver damage worsens over time, you might notice symptoms such as:
Doctors might find out you have PBC during a blood test for another condition.
If they suspect you have PBC, they may test your blood for anti-mitochondrial antibodies. People with PBC have these antibodies in their blood.
Your doctor will do an exam and ask if anyone else in your family has PBC.
In some cases, they will remove a small sample of liver tissue and study it under a microscope. This is known as liver biopsy.
Doctors can't cure PBC. But they can treat you to help stop — or slow — further liver damage.
The goal of treating PBC is to prevent liver damage. You'll see your doctor for routine physical exams and blood tests to check your liver's function.
Healthy habits are especially vital when you have PBC.
Your doctor will suggest that you:
Your doctor might prescribe certain medications to help slow liver damage from PBC.
These drugs include:
Some people with PBC don't have enough vitamins A, D, E, and K in their bodies because the liver can't absorb them. You might take supplements to help replace these vitamins.
Over time, PBC may damage the liver so much that you experience liver failure or end-stage liver disease.
Transplant surgery, in which doctors replace a diseased liver with a donated healthy one, is the only treatment for liver failure.