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Primary Biliary Cholangitis (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis)

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Definition & Facts

Primary biliary cholangitis is a chronic disease in which the small bile ducts in the liver become injured and inflamed and are eventually destroyed. When there are no bile ducts, bile builds up and causes liver damage.

Tired woman sitting in front of a laptop.

Symptoms & Causes

Common early symptoms of primary biliary cholangitis are feeling tired and having itchy skin. Many people have no symptoms when they are first diagnosed. Experts aren’t sure what causes primary biliary cholangitis, but genes and environmental triggers may play a role.


Doctors diagnose primary biliary cholangitis based on your medical and family history, a physical exam, and the results of medical tests. Medical tests used to diagnose primary biliary cholangitis may include blood tests, imaging tests, and liver biopsy.


Doctors treat primary biliary cholangitis with medicines. Doctors may treat the symptoms and complications of the disease with medicines, dietary supplements, changes in diet and lifestyle, and medical procedures.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

A healthy, well-balanced diet is important in all stages of primary biliary cholangitis. Your doctor can recommend a healthy eating plan that provides enough calories and nutrients to help your liver work properly and manage complications.

Clinical Trials

The NIDDK conducts and supports clinical trials in many diseases and conditions, including liver diseases. The trials look to find new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease and improve quality of life.

Related Diagnostic Tests

Related Research

Your Digestive System & How It Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—also called the digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

Last Reviewed March 2021

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

NIDDK would like to thank:
John Moore Vierling, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine