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Earlier referred to as primary biliary cirrhosis, primary biliary cholangitis is a progressive disease which is marked by the gradual degeneration of the bile ducts present in the liver. It is characterized as an autoimmune disease as the patient's body starts attacking the healthy cells. Now, the question is, what can happen if your bile ducts get damaged?

The bile juice secreted by your liver aids in various metabolic activities and is also essential for digestion and absorption of essential vitamins. Not only this, bile juice is also known to help in the elimination of damaged red blood, toxic substances and cholesterol particles, all of which can lead to serious ailments. In patients with primary biliary cholangitis, the bile ducts are not able to produce bile juice efficiently, as a result of which all these important functions are hampered. Top liver specialists in Mumbai suggest that if the problem is left untreated for long, it can result in complete liver failure and give rise to the need of a transplant.

It is important to understand that the condition is triggered by chronic liver inflammation, which could be due to a variety of different reasons, which are mostly genetic or environmental. The problem can affect anyone, though it is more common in females.

Wondering what symptoms you need to watch out for?

It is quite surprising to know that many patients suffering from the condition do not experience any prominent symptom and remain undiagnosed for a very long time. It is quite possible that you may be diagnosed while undergoing blood tests for some other reason. The condition progresses at a very slow rate and it might take early 35 years to two decades for them to be evident. Here are a few symptoms associated with primary biliary cholangitis, as listed by experts specializing in liver transplant in India.

  • General body weakness and fatigue without any specific reason
  • Itchiness and rashes on the skin
  • Dry eyes and mouth
  • Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right area
  • Splenomegaly, a condition marked by inflammation or swelling in the spleen
  • Foot and ankle edema, which refers to inflammation caused by fluid accumulation
  • Ascites, which is marked by fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Xanthomas, which is marked by the accumulation of fats around the eyes, palms, soles, elbows and knees.
  • Jaundice, which is marked by yellowing of eyes and skin
  • Hyperpigmentation, which refers to the darkening of skin
  • Osteoporosis, in which the bones become brittle and prone to fractures
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained loss of weight

What causes primary biliary cholangitis?

The exact cause of primary biliary cholangitis is not known but experts from the best hospital in India suggest that the autoimmune disease could be a result of environmental or genetic factors. The inflammation usually starts with the accumulation of white blood cells in the liver. Healthy white blood cells are responsible for detecting and fighting infections, whereas these abnormal cells fail to recognise them and start attacking the healthy cells instead.

The inflammation can start from one bile duct and gradually spread to the others. The damaged cells accumulate to form scar tissue, leading to cirrhosis which is a very serious condition.

Although we do not know the exact cause of primary biliary cholangitis, there are certain factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing the same. People who are more susceptible to it include

  • Women
  • People aged between 30 to 60 years
  • People with a family history of the condition
  • People who experienced frequent urinary tract infections
  • People who smoke excessively
  • People who are over exposed to chemicals and toxins

Is it possible to prevent biliary cholangitis?

As the exact underlying cause is not known it can, there is no way of negating the risks completely. However, there are a few things that you can do to alleviate the risks of the same.

  • Start by following a healthy diet to boost your immune system
  • Refrain from smoking, be it primary or second hand
  • Take all necessary precautions while handling toxic chemicals
  • Cut down on your alcohol consumption and completely refrain from it if you have an existing liver problem.

Consult a Doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms.