Some people with PBC will never get any symptoms of the disease.
Constant tiredness (for some people this can be severe) and intense itching in any part of the body. Itching, also known as pruritus, may be a result of your liver’s inability to process bile. It is thought that bile acids are not the cause of the itching but rather other chemicals that are retained in the body. As with tiredness, the severity of the itching will vary from person to person. Severity is not an indication of the amount of liver damage.
- dry eyes and/or dry mouth
- constant or variable ache or discomfort in the upper right hand side, below your ribs
- indigestion, nausea or poor appetite
- arthritis (inflammation of the joints)
- pain in the bones
- mottled palms with red or pink blotches
- dark urine and/or pale stools
- jaundice – yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
Tiredness and itching are generally the first symptoms to appear while jaundice is usually associated with the later stages of the disease.
Doctors can tell whether you have PBC on the basis of symptoms and a range of tests, including blood tests.
Most people with PBC have something in their blood called antimitochondrial antibody (AMA). An antibody is a chemical made by the body to attack an ‘invader’. Though doctors are not really sure why, the presence of AMA in your blood is an important sign that you have PBC.
This type of test is performed to gain an idea how the different parts of your liver are functioning. The Liver Function Tests are made up of a number of separate examinations, each looking at different properties of your blood.
In PBC, doctors will be looking for increased levels of both alkaline phosphatase (ALP), an enzyme released into the blood by damaged bile ducts, and the immunoglobulin IgM. The liver enzymes alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) are also monitored, although these are a measure of any leakiness or damage relating primarily to liver cells rather than the bile duct cells
This is used to check the condition of the bile ducts and to rule out the possibility that your symptoms could be a sign of a different liver problem.
If tests show you have PBC you may need a liver biopsy to see how serious the condition is.