September is PBC Awareness Month

As a critical organ, the liver is responsible for serving several essential actions in the intestinal tract, like cleaning unwanted byproducts from the blood, storing nutrients, and regulating glucose levels. Within the liver, slender tubes referred to as bile ducts carry the digestive fluid bile to the small bowel to help with processing food. If these tubes become occluded or deteriorate, it interferes with normal liver function. One medical issue that can harm the bile ducts is a chronic disease referred to as primary biliary cholangitis (PBC).

The majority of times, patients having PBC are women age 40 – 60, although males and women under the age of 40 may also have the disease. Left untreated, the condition might end up causing liver failure, which could result in the need for a liver transplant. Early detection is essential to generate the most optimal health result. A gastrointestinal doctor can detect PBC and suggest treatment solutions that can help slow disease advancement.

September is recognized as Primary Biliary Awareness Month. If you or a loved one has primary biliary cholangitis, contact San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates to learn more about PBC. Our San Antonio, TX gastrointestinal (GI) specialists can offer expert treatment and help you combat this concerning liver disorder.

Facts about primary biliary cholangitis

PBC is an uncommon autoimmune condition that develops an individual's overactive immune mechanism assaults normally healthy bile ducts. In turn, this creates swelling that increasingly destroys the bile ducts. In the event that bile is unable to transfer into the small bowel, it accumulates in the liver and results in liver damage. PBC was formerly known as primary biliary cirrhosis; however, the name was changed to prevent confusion with liver disease related to alcohol and drug use. Although the specific causes of PBC are not known, healthcare experts believe a patient's immune response may be instigated by environmental or genetic components.

Symptoms of primary biliary cholangitis

In the early course of the disease, PBC might exhibit no noticeable symptoms, making it vital to receive periodic blood tests that monitor the function of the liver. Patients who do notice symptoms of PBC will commonly have:

  • Lethargy
  • Dry eyes
  • Pruritis (itching)
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)

As the liver condition worsens, the injury to the organ can bring about cirrhosis, a situation where scar tissue builds up in the liver and diminishes its ability to function as usual. The clinical signs and symptoms of advanced damage to the liver include:

  • Pain in the abdomen

  • Loss of weight

  • Edema or swollen feet and ankles

  • Xanthomas or lesions on the skin containing fat and cholesterol

  • Yellowing of the skin or jaundice

In the event you or a member of your family presents with any of the above indications, it is important to seek specialized care right away. You can talk with a GI specialist near you by visiting San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates. We treat individuals throughout the San Antonio, TX region who are experiencing primary biliary cholangitis or other forms of liver problems.

How is PBC diagnosed?

A GI specialist can screen a patient for primary biliary cholangitis by checking for certain indicators in the blood that determine how well the liver is functioning. Elevated quantities of the enzyme alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and AMAs (antimitochondrial antibodies) in the bloodstream could point to PBC. Diagnostic imaging tests could also be carried out to get a closer look at the bile ducts and liver to screen for signs of scarring. These diagnostic procedures can also help rule out additional sources of liver impairment. In cases where the type of condition remains uncertain, a biopsy of the liver can be carried out. To complete a biopsy, a small amount of the liver tissue is collected and dispatched to a lab to be examined microscopically by a specialist.

Are there treatments for PBC?

Although there is no known cure for primary biliary cholangitis, certain medications can help stall the progression of this liver disease. Ursodiol, a naturally occurring bile acid, is commonly used to help move bile out of the liver and into the small intestine. If ursodiol is utilized in the early stages of the disease, it may increase the function of the liver and postpone the need for a liver transplant. Symptoms of primary biliary cholangitis, such as itching, dry eyes, and high cholesterol, may also be treated and managed with medication therapy.

Find treatment for PBC in San Antonio, TX

Should you or a member of your family experience primary biliary cholangitis, know that skilled assistance is available from San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates. The accomplished team of digestive health specialists at San Antonio Gastroenterology Associates performs state-of-the-art procedures and advanced treatment for gastrointestinal issues, including primary biliary cholangitis. To find out more about PBC and review your treatment methods, contact our GI practice in San Antonio, TX today.