Biliary Cirrhosis

Below you will find more information about Biliary Cirrhosis from Medigest. If you believe that you are suffering from any of the symptoms of Biliary Cirrhosis it is important that you obtain an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional to ensure that you obtain the correct medication or treatment for your condition. There are medical conditions that carry similar symptoms associated with Biliary Cirrhosis and therefore the information provided by Medigest is offered as a guideline only and should never be used in preference to seeking professional medical advice. The information relating to Biliary Cirrhosis comes from a third party source and Medigest will not be held liable for any inaccuracies relating to the information shown.

Definition

Primary biliary cirrhosis is a disease in which the bile ducts in the liver are slowly and steadily destroyed. The body has an intricate system of ducts designed specifically to transport bile, which is a fluid produced in the liver. Bile is needed for the proper digestion of fats and helps rid the body of worn-out red blood cells, cholesterol and potentially toxic metals. In primary biliary cirrhosis, the destruction of bile ducts can cause dangerous substances to build up in the liver and sometimes lead to irreversible scarring of liver tissue (or cirrhosis). Many experts consider primary biliary cirrhosis an autoimmune disease in which the body turns against its own cells, although it's possible that genetic and environmental factors also play a part. Primary biliary cirrhosis develops somewhat slowly. Medication can slow the progression of the disease, especially if treatment starts early.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of PBC should be based on a combination of historical, laboratory, serological and histological criteria. In general, patients are middle aged women who complain of pruritus early and jaundice late. Patients that present late in the course of their disease may also have symptoms of cirrhosis and hepatic failure. Many patients are referred for examination of an isolated elevated serum alkaline phosphatase activity on laboratory testing for other purposes. Essentially all patients have high serum alkaline phosphatase and gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase activities. The serum IgM concentration is almost always heightened.

Treatment

Because no cure exists for primary biliary cirrhosis, treatment focuses mainly on slowing down the progress of the disease, relieving symptoms and preventing complications.

Causes

The exact cause of primary biliary cirrhosis is unknown, but it appears to be an immune system disorder that slowly destroys the bile ducts in the liver. Genetics and the environment may also play a role in this disease. Most evidence points out that primary biliary cirrhosis is an immune system disorder. The initial inflammation starts with T lymphocytes (T cells) - white blood cells that normally recognize and help defend against bacteria and fungi. T cells invade and kill the epithelial cells lining the small bile ducts. The T cells also give out chemicals that stimulate the epithelial cells to produce proteins that attract more T cells, thereby creating an ongoing cycle of damage. This is a classic autoimmune scenario - a case in which the body's immune system fights against its own cells. Not everything, though, about primary biliary cirrhosis is classic. For one thing, it rarely occurs in young children, even though autoimmune disorders often begin in childhood. For another, unlike most autoimmune diseases, primary biliary cirrhosis does not generally respond to drugs that suppress the immune system.

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