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Knowing Your Liver: Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

August 3, 2016

Knowing Your Liver - Primary Sclerosing CholangitisPrimary Sclerosing Cholangitis, also referred to as PSC, is a disease that causes inflammation of bile ducts in the liver. As the inflammation remains, scar tissue begins to develop and blocks the bile ducts over time, prohibiting bile from traveling into the intestine for its role in digestion and eventually causes a buildup of bile in the liver. The scar tissue that develops as a result of the inflammation of PSC and the excess of bile is extremely dangerous to the life of a person’s liver, and can even be deadly. (1)

 

We at Grassroots Health are passionate about raising awareness of chronic diseases that affect Americans. That being said, we will continue to dedicate material over the next two weeks as we conclude our blog series discussing many types of common liver diseases and their health risks. Today we continue by discussing the genetic disorder known as primary sclerosing cholangitis.



The Liver

In order to get a better understanding of this disease, let us recap: The liver is the body’s largest internal organ and is located in the upper right side of the abdomen. It is known as “the body’s metabolic factory because of the important role it plays in metabolism—the way cells change food into energy after food is digested and absorbed into the blood.” The liver’s predominant roles include (2):


  • Taking up, storing, and processing nutrients from food—including fat, sugar, and protein—and delivering them to the rest of the body when needed.
  • Making new proteins, such as clotting factors and immune factors.
  • Producing bile, which helps the body absorb fats, cholesterol, and fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Removing waste products the kidneys cannot remove, such as fats, cholesterol, toxins, and medications.


Causes of PSC

Though PSC has been diagnosed in the field of medicine for over 100 years, the direct cause of this disease is still unknown. Medical professionals speculate correlations between “genes, immune system problems, bacteria, and viruses.” (1)



Liver DiagramDiagnosing and Treating PSC


Symptoms

Like many liver diseases that we have discussed in this blog series, PSC rarely produces symptoms in the early stages because it progresses slowly. Since this is true, it’s important to not only be aware of how to recognize this disease, but also to know the necessary steps involved with diagnosing and treating it. When symptoms are present they can include (1):


  • Itching
  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes
  • An infection in the bile ducts can cause chills and fever.

Diagnosis

A diagnosis is made based on the results of lab tests that measure liver function. Some of these tests can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Albumin
  • Bilirubin - Total
  • Bilirubin - Direct
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)
  • Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)
  • Protein - Total
  • Antimitochondrial Antibody (AMA)

“Doctors confirm the diagnosis using cholangiography, which provides pictures of the bile ducts.” (1)


Treatment

“Although researchers have studied many treatments, none has been shown to cure or slow the progress of PSC. Treatment of PSC aims to relieve symptoms and manage complications. Medical treatment may include various medications to relieve itching, antibiotics to treat infections, and vitamin supplements. Instruments passed through an endoscope during ERCP can help open blocked bile ducts. Liver transplantation may be an option if the liver begins to fail.” (1)

 

Affordable Healthcare Solutions

If you have been diagnosed with PSC or if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, we recommend that you follow up with your physician as often as they request so that they can monitor your condition and work to prevent a life-threatening situation from occurring. If you are uninsured or have health insurance that you cannot afford, there are still some affordable healthcare options available.


Grassroots Labs is a company that we partner with in the mission of creating healthcare options that are affordable, convenient and efficient for everyone. On their website GrassrootsLabs.io, they have created an online laboratory test store where individuals can browse a large variety of lab tests that are significantly discounted from the traditional mark-up rates that you find at hospitals and doctors offices. Included in their store is an affordable lab test panel for liver function that includes the majority of the lab tests listed above; in addition to many individual tests that are used in diagnosing and managing diseases of the liver. Their online store also features affordable panels for high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid disease. These are just a few examples of the many tests they provide for managing chronic diseases and for meeting a wide variety of healthcare needs. For a full biography of Grassroots Labs click here.



We cannot stress enough the importance of regularly monitoring overall health; which is why we strive to make this possible by finding innovative solutions to healthcare that make it more affordable for people to access. In addition, by partnering with like-minded companies such as Grassroots Labs we are able to bridge the gaps between healthcare services by making them valuable to everyone. Stay tuned, next Wednesday we will be concluding our blog series on Liver Disease by discussing Hepatocellular Carcinoma, also referred to as Liver Cancer.


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Image Credit 1

Image Credit 2

Sources:

1. National Institute of Health - Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

2. National Institute of Health - Cirrhosis

   

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The mission of the CHC Blog is to provide educational content on topics of health care and community benefit which is informative, valuable, and inspiring to our members, patients, and the community at large. 

Shelby Morgan - Editor / Author

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