Definition & Facts of Primary Biliary Cholangitis (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis)

In this section:

What is primary biliary cholangitis?

Primary biliary cholangitis is the new name for primary biliary cirrhosis, or PBC. 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. This damage can lead to liver scarring, cirrhosis, and eventually liver failure. Primary biliary cholangitis is believed to be an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system is overactive and attacks normal, healthy bile duct cells.

How common is primary biliary cholangitis?

Researchers estimate that in the United States, about 65 out of every 100,000 women and about 12 out of every 100,000 men have primary biliary cholangitis.1

Who is more likely to get primary biliary cholangitis?

You are more likely to get primary biliary cholangitis if you

  • are a woman
  • are older than age 35
  • have a parent or sibling—particularly an identical twin—with the disease
  • are of Northern European descent

What other health problems do people with primary biliary cholangitis have?

People with primary biliary cholangitis may have certain autoimmune diseases, including

People with primary biliary cholangitis may also have frequent urinary tract infections.

What are the complications of primary biliary cholangitis?

Common complications of primary biliary cholangitis include

These common complications can be prevented and treated.

Primary biliary cholangitis can also lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.


Last Reviewed March 2017

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. The 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 the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

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