Primary biliary cirrhosis is a chronic, or long lasting, disease that causes the small bile ducts in the liver to become inflamed and damaged and ultimately disappear. The bile ducts carry a fluid called bile from the liver to the gallbladder, where it is stored. When food enters the stomach after a meal, the gallbladder contracts, and the bile ducts carry bile to the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, for use in digestion.
The prognosis of PBC varies greatly from one patient to another. Many lead active lives with few symptoms for 10 to 20 years. In some patients, however, the condition progresses more rapidly and liver deterioration may occur in just a few years. The prognosis has improved significantly over a period of two decades because of earlier diagnosis and effective treatment.
The medicine ursodiol is usually given soon after a diagnosis of primary biliary cirrhosis. Ursodiol helps move bile out of the liver and into the small intestine. If it is used early enough, ursodiol can improve liver function and may keep you from needing a liver transplant. The medicine may also help you live longer.