Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
What Causes It?The cause of primary biliary cirrhosis is unknown. The disease affects women more often than men, and usually occurs between the ages of 30 years and 60 years. Some research suggests that the disease might be caused by a problem within the immune system.
This is because primary biliary cirrhosis is often associated with other diseases known to be autoimmune in nature, including:
- The CRST syndrome (calcinosis, Raynaud's syndrome, sclerodactyly, telangiectasia)
- Sicca syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Autoimmune thyroiditis
- Renal tubular acidosis.
(Click Causes of Biliary Cirrhosis for more information.)
Symptoms of Primary Biliary CirrhosisDuring the early stages of primary biliary cirrhosis, a person may not even know that his or her liver is being damaged. He or she may not have any symptoms of primary biliary cirrhosis, or notice any physical changes to his or her body. If someone does have primary biliary cirrhosis symptoms, the most common symptoms are itchy skin and fatigue. Other primary biliary cirrhosis symptoms may include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
- Cholesterol deposits on the skin
- Fluid retention
- Dry eyes or dry mouth.
(Click Primary Biliary Cirrhosis Symptoms to learn about other symptoms of this condition, including some more serious symptoms.)
Making a Diagnosis
Primary biliary cirrhosis is diagnosed through laboratory tests, x-rays, and, in some cases, a liver biopsy (a simple operation to remove a small piece of liver tissue).
(Click Diagnosing Primary Biliary Cirrhosis for more information about making a primary biliary cirrhosis diagnosis.)