Which health conditions cause complications of complications of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis?

Updated at: Jan 13, 2013
Which health conditions cause complications of complications of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis?
Editorial Team
Other DiseasesWritten by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Jan 13, 2013

Some people develop one or more complications of primary biliary cirrhosis when the disease progresses to cirrhosis.

  • Osteoporosis. The disease may cause bones to become fragile and more likely to break. Osteoporosis can also result from steroid use as a treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis.
  • Maldigestion. When a person with primary biliary cirrhosis has jaundice, the small intestine cannot easily absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Maldigestion may result in diarrhea and fatty stools and can lead to weight loss in the late stages of the disease.
  • Portal hypertension. Normally, blood from the intestines and spleen is carried to the liver through the portal vein. But primary biliary cirrhosis may cause inflammation in the portal tract, leading to increased pressure in the portal vein. This condition is called portal hypertension.
  • Esophageal varices and gastropathy. When portal hypertension occurs, it may cause enlarged blood vessels in the esophagus, called varices, or in the stomach, called gastropathy, or both. Enlarged blood vessels are more likely to burst due to thin walls and increased pressure. If they burst, serious bleeding can occur in the esophagus or upper stomach, requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Splenomegaly. When portal hypertension occurs, the spleen frequently enlarges and sequesters or holds white blood cells and platelets, reducing the numbers of these cells in the blood. A low platelet count in the blood may be the first evidence that a patient has developed cirrhosis.
  • Edema and ascites. When the liver dam-age progresses to an advanced stage, fluid collects in the legs, called edema, and in the abdomen, called ascites. Ascites can lead to bacterial peritonitis, a serious infection.
  • Bruising and bleeding. When the liver slows or stops producing the proteins needed for blood clotting, a person will bruise or bleed easily.
  • Sensitivity to medications. Cirrhosis slows the liver’s ability to filter medications from the blood. When this occurs, medications act longer than expected and build up in the body. This causes a person to be more sensi-tive to medications and their side effects.
  • Hepatic encephalopathy. A failing liver cannot remove toxins from the blood, and they eventually accumulate in the brain. The buildup of toxins in the brain—called hepatic encephalopathy—can decrease mental function and cause coma. Signs of decreased mental function include confusion, personality changes, memory loss, trouble concentrating, and a change in sleep habits.
  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Cirrhosis causes resistance to insulin—a hormone produced by the pancreas that enables the body to use glucose as energy. With insulin resistance, the body’s muscle, fat, and liver cells do not use insulin prop-erly. The pancreas tries to keep up with the demand for insulin by producing more, but excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream causing type 2 diabetes.
  • Liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma is a type of liver cancer that can occur in patients with cirrhosis. Hepatocellular carcinoma has a high mortality rate, but several treatment options are available.
  • Other problems. Cirrhosis can cause immune system...


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