Definition and symptoms

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is an autoimmune condition that affects the bile ducts in your liver. Bile ducts carry digestive enzymes from the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine. As the bile ducts become damaged over time, the build up of harmful material can lead to liver damage, and ultimately liver cirrhosis.

Risk factors

Risk factors for PBC include being over age 40, female, and having a family member with the disease.


Patients with PBC need lifetime monitoring of life function and symptomatic treatment. Blood work, ultrasounds, MRIs, and endoscopy are all part of the diagnostic work up of PBC.


Ursodeoxycholic acid may be a helpful treatment for PBC patients. Symptomatic treatment is available to control complications, including portal hypertension, ascites, esophageal varices, and bleeding abnormalities. At times, endoscopic evaluation is necessary to open blockages or screen for cancer. Ultimately, many patients with severe, end-stage PBC may need a liver transplant.

More patient-friendly information can be found through the Liver Foundation:

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