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Department of Internal Medicine

Department of Internal Medicine

Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) - Frequently Asked Questions

1) General questions
a) How do you get the disease?
a) Mechanisms leading to PBC are still unknown.

b) Is it an infectious disease?
b) PBC is not an infectious disease.

c) Does it run in the family?
c) Although a number of genetic factors have been indicated, PBC is not a hereditary disease.

2) Management
a) Can PBC be asymptomatic?
a) Most cases of PBC are found during periodic check-ups or medical examinations for other reasons. Only advanced stages present with symptoms such as ascites (water in the abdomen), pruritus, jaundice, or digestive bleeding.

b) Do I need any diet?
b) No specific diet is requested, although the mantainance of a normal weight and a healthy life style is highly reccomended.

c) Can I drink alcohol?
c) Not drinking alcohol (in all forms) is the only dietary measure needed.

d) Can I take medications?
d) Unless PBC is at an advanced stage, there's no restriction about taking other medications. We suggest you ask your physician for individual suggestions.

3) Therapy
a) Is there any therapy?
a) The major pharmacologic therapy for PBC consists of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) or tauro-ursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA). They are both taken orally everyday and they seem to slow the progression of PBC.

b) Does PBC lead to liver transplantation?
b) The only treatment for late-stage disease is liver transplantation. Only a fraction of PBC patients require it.

4) Miscellanous

a) Are PBC and pregnancy compatible?
a) Yes, unless in advanced stages of disease. Also UDCA and TUDCA have not shown any harmful affect on the fetus, but always consult with your doctor before taking any medicine during pregnancy.

b) Where's the referral center for PBC?
b) PBC referral centers are available all over the United States and in countries worldwide.