Spreading Awareness of Primary Biliary Cholangitis in the Month of September


The liver is responsible for serving many critical functions in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as eliminating pollutants from the blood, stockpiling vitamins and minerals, and helping to control glucose levels in the body. Inside the liver, a group of narrow canals called bile ducts take the digestive fluid bile to the small intestine to assist with digestion. If the bile ducts are occluded or damaged, it negatively impacts the liver’s ability to function. A health condition that can cause trauma to the bile ducts is an autoimmune concern referred to as primary biliary cholangitis (PBC).

In most cases, patients who have primary biliary cholangitis are women between 40 – 60 years of age; however, males and women younger than age 40 can also be diagnosed. Left untreated, primary biliary cholangitis might result in the loss of liver function and lead to the need for a liver transplant. Early identification is essential to the most optimal outcome. A gastrointestinal (GI) specialist can diagnose primary biliary cholangitis and recommend treatment protocols that can help decelerate the advancement of the disease.

September is recognized as Primary Biliary Cholangitis Month. If you or a loved one has primary biliary cholangitis, please consider scheduling a visit at Indianapolis Gastroenterology and Hepatology to learn more about the condition. Our Indianapolis, IN gastroenterologists can offer expert care and help you combat PBC and its effects.

Understanding primary biliary cholangitis

Primary biliary cholangitis is an uncommon autoimmune issue that develops an individual's hyperactive immune response damages otherwise healthy bile ducts. If this takes place, it creates inflammation that increasingly injures the bile ducts. When bile is unable to proceed into the small bowel, it builds up in the liver and leads to organ damage. PBC was once known as primary biliary cirrhosis; however, the name was changed to set it apart from alcohol and drug-related liver diseases. Even though the precise causes of PBC are not known, medical experts believe an individual's autoimmune response may be stimulated by hereditary or environmental issues.

Recognizing PBC symptoms

During its beginning phases, PBC may exhibit no outward symptoms, which makes it crucial to receive routine blood work to monitor how the liver is functioning. People who do present with symptoms of PBC often notice:

  • Lethargy
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Itching (pruritus)
  • Dry eyes

As the disease worsens, the inflammation in the liver may result in cirrhosis, which is where fibrotic scar tissue occurs in the organ and decreases its ability to function normally. The clinical signs and symptoms of serious liver damage can include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Swollen ankles and feet or edema

  • Xanthomas or skin lesions containing cholesterol or fat

  • Unintentional loss of weight

If you or someone you know have any of the above symptoms, please seek specialized care right away. You can partner with a gastroenterologist near you by reaching out to Indianapolis Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Our team members provide care for people throughout the Indianapolis, IN community who have primary biliary cholangitis and other forms of liver problems.

Diagnosing primary biliary cholangitis

A GI specialist can evaluate a patient for PBC by measuring certain substances in the blood that provide information about liver function. Greater quantities of the enzyme ALP (alkaline phosphatase) and antimitochondrial antibodies (AMAs) in the bloodstream could indicate that PBC is present. Advanced imaging may also be performed to assess the liver and the bile ducts and further screen for indications of deterioration. These tests may help rule out additional sources of liver dysfunction. Among patients where the type of condition remains unclear, a liver biopsy could be recommended. During a biopsy procedure, a small sampling of the liver tissue is removed and delivered to a medical laboratory to be evaluated by an expert.

Treating primary biliary cholangitis

Although there is no known cure for PBC, there are specific medications that might help decelerate the advancement of the liver disorder. A naturally occurring bile acid, known as ursodiol, is often used to facilitate the movement of bile out of the liver and into the small bowel. When used early in the course of the disease, the medication could elevate the liver's ability to function and possibly delay the need to undergo liver transplantation. Side effects of PBC, such as itching, dry eyes, and elevated cholesterol, could also be treated and controlled with medication.

Seek care for PBC in Indianapolis, IN

In the event that you or a member of your family have been diagnosed with PBC, know that personalized help can be received at Indianapolis Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Offering a skilled team of gastrointestinal doctors, Indianapolis Gastroenterology and Hepatology provides modern treatments and progressive care for digestive problems, like PBC. To learn more about primary biliary cholangitis and optimal methods for care, please reach out to our office in Indianapolis, IN.