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What are the complications of primary biliary cirrhosis?
The complications of primary biliary cirrhosis develop as the ability of the
liver to function decreases. Cirrhosis describes liver scarring and failure. The
liver is responsible for helping to digest food, producing proteins, blood
clotting factors, and enzymes that help digest food. Some complications include
Ascites: Fluid collection within the abdomen that occurs because the liver
cannot produce enough albumin, a protein that helps keep fluid within the blood
vessels. Ascites fluid is prone to infection and a condition called spontaneous
bacterial peritonitis (peritoneum=sac that contains the abdominal organs +
Edema: Swelling of the legs may occur, again because of decreased albumin
levels in the body
Easy bruising or bleeding:
The liver is responsible for producing blood
clotting factors. Without an adequate supply, there is an increased risk of
Hepatic encephalopathy: The liver also helps remove waste products from the
bloodstream. Ammonia is the chemical waste product of protein metabolism and the
body requires a healthy liver to metabolize it. If ammonia levels rise,
confusion and lethargy (encephalopathy) may occur.
Portal hypertension: An increase in pressure within the liver can cause blood flow issues leading to
portal hypertension. This may backup blood flow from other organs, causing splenomegaly, an enlarged spleen, and varices, swollen veins, especially in the
esophagus and stomach that can predispose to bleeding.
Osteoporosis: PBC is also complicated by osteoporosis, difficulty in absorbing nutrients
from the intestine, and increased risk of infection because of a compromised
Cancer: Hepatocellular carcinoma is a complication of PBC, occurring in up to 6% of