Primary cholangitis: 6 things to know

Primary cholangitis is a dangerous autoimmune disease that can lead to primary cirrhosis. The disease gets worse over time, if not properly monitored and treated, it can progress to death because of liver damage. Let’s learn about this disease in the article below.

1. What is primary cholangitis?

Primary cholangitis is a disease of the liver. The liver is a large organ located in the right abdomen. The disease occurs when antibodies produced by the body by the immune system attack, damage the liver (autoimmune disease) causing primary cirrhosis. This causes bile accumulation in the liver and damage to liver cells.

Although the exact cause of the disease is unknown, immune and genetic factors play an important role. Primary sclerosing cholangitis can be considered a rare disease, but recently the disease appears more and more….It can occur singly, but there are also patients associated with inflammatory bowel disease, especially is an inflammatory bowel disease.

Primary cholangitis is a serious disease. Inflammation can damage the liver and affect its function. Liver damage can be fatal. Most of the patients are female, but men have also reported this pathology.

Healthy liver and cirrhosis

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2. Symptoms of Primary Cholangitis

Many patients with primary cholangitis are asymptomatic, but if present, symptoms may include:

Tired: Patients often feel tired, sleep a lot day and night.

Itchy skin: itching increases at night

Skin changes:

  • Dry skin
  • Hives
  • Dark skin
  • Yellow skin or eyes


Dry eyes, dry mouth

Abdominal pain (usually right side pain)

Weight loss

Decreased concentration, poor memory

The course of the disease is often difficult to predict, but it is usually slow. Patients can have the disease for many years but have no symptoms. Symptoms of the disease may persist in many degrees, may be intermittent or progress slowly

Complications of chronic biliary tract disease: fatigue, itching, fatty urine, lack of fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K, osteoporosis. Complications of portal hypertension: gastrointestinal bleeding, ascites, peritonitis, encephalopathy.

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Liver failure may occur after 7 to 15 years of disease or may be longer. Patients can have long-standing disease, which can then develop into a tumor of the bile ducts called cholangiocarcinoma, but this happens only about 0.5-1% per year.

3. Diagnostic test for primary cholangitis

Patients should be examined by a physician, taking history and symptoms. Tests may then be ordered such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Liver biopsy: Through a biopsy, a small sample of liver tissue is taken and examined under a microscope to diagnose disease

liver biopsy

Sometimes imaging tools such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging are also needed for diagnosis.

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is rapidly evolving as the investigation of choice for the evaluation of the bile ducts. As image quality continues to improve, MRCP could become the future gold standard.

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A blood test is a common test that is often ordered when you visit the hospital. The information about 10 important blood test indicators, the meaning of each indicator and the notes you need to know when performing the blood draw test has been shared in the article: “10 important blood test indicators you need to know”

4. Treatment Methods for Primary Cholangitis

An important goal in the treatment of primary cholangitis is to slow the progression of the disease and minimize damage to the liver. In addition, additional treatment measures may be indicated such as:

  • Change your eating habits: Patients with primary cholangitis should eat a low-fat diet
  • Vitamin supplements: Patients with cholangitis often do not absorb the necessary amount of vitamins through the digestive process. If the body does not provide enough vitamins, it needs to be supplemented with drugs. However, you should not use vitamins on your own, but need to consult a doctor for advice on which vitamins are missing and how to use them safely.
  • Medicines to relieve symptoms of the disease: medicine to relieve itching, medicine to relieve dry mouth, …
  • Liver transplant: If primary cholangitis is severe, disease-modifying drugs and liver damage are not effective, then liver transplantation is considered. A liver transplant is the process of replacing a damaged liver with a healthy liver.

liver transplant

Liver transplant is a major surgery, with many risks, so it should be consulted and selected carefully. Patients need to be investigated for their health status and surgical safety. The transplanted liver needs to be suitable for the patient, sometimes the long waiting process can take up to several years to find a suitable liver.

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5. Does the patient with cholangitis have to limit exercise?

The patient’s physical activity was normal and unrestricted. However, in patients with osteoporosis, there is an increased risk of fracture, so the appropriate type of activity should be selected.

6. How to prevent cholangitis?

Primary cholangitis is a progressive disease, and there is no effective prevention strategy.

Stopping smoking or drinking alcohol can reduce or delay the chances of developing cholangiocarcinoma.

Here is the basic information about primary cholangitis. Hope to provide initial information to help readers easily continue to learn more about this dangerous disease.

Do not hesitate to leave questions in the comments section, as well as share the article if you find it useful. Looking forward to receiving your feedback as well as accompanying you in the next articles.

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