Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a chronic liver disease caused by progressive inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts of the liver. Impaired flow of bile damages the liver cells and can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer.

Symptoms of PSC

PSC progresses slowly, and many people do not experience symptoms for years.
Common initial symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Itching of the skin
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • In more advanced disease, if the bile ducts become infected, patients may have fever, chills, abdominal pain.

Causes of PSC

The cause of PSC is not fully understood. Experts believe it may be caused by an immune reaction to an infectious trigger, and that genetic susceptibilities may play a role. People with inflammatory bowel disease and certain other conditions are more likely to have PSC, although the relationship between these diseases is not yet clear. About 70% of patients with PSC are men.

Treatments for PSC

There is no cure for PSC. Medical therapies help to alleviate symptoms such as itching, infections, and malnutrition. Surgery or endoscopic procedures may be performed to open blockages in the ducts and improve the flow of bile.

If a patient advances to liver failure, liver transplantation may be recommended. Although PSC can recur after transplant, a liver transplant is curative in the majority of cases.