Primary Biliary Cirrhosis: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 7/1/2020

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a progressive disease of the liver that occurs due to a buildup of bile within the ducts in the liver (known as cholestasis). This damages the bile ducts and with time, the increasing pressure leads to liver cell damage. Eventually, there is scarring (cirrhosis) and liver failure.

Signs and symptoms of primary biliary cirrhosis that correspond to scarring or cirrhosis in the liver include

  • fatigue,
  • itching,
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), and
  • swelling in the abdomen or extremities.

Other associated symptoms and signs can include

  • upper right abdominal pain,
  • muscle wasting, and
  • darkening or discoloration of the skin.

Causes of primary biliary cirrhosis

The exact cause of PBS is unknown and is likely related to an autoimmune process.

Other primary biliary cirrhosis symptoms and signs

  • Darkening or Discoloration of the Skin
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Muscle Wasting
  • Swelling in the Abdomen or Extremities
  • Upper Right Abdominal Pain
  • Yellowing of the Skin and Eyes (Jaundice)


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.