PBC – life threatening illness misdiagnosed
Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC) is a life threatening liver disease that currently affects 20,000 Britons. The disease causes sufferers to develop the ‘liver of an alcoholic’ – even if they do not drink alcohol at all.
PBC symptoms & misdiagnosis
PBC predominantly affects women aged between 40-55 years. The condition typically presents symptoms of fatigue and abdominal pain. PBC is therefore often mistaken for the menopause, and in some cases the patient may be misdiagnosed with depression.
PBC causes the body’s immune system to attack the bile ducts in the liver, resulting in severe scarring and inflammation. In the latter stages of PBC, patients may also experience increasingly severe symptoms of fever, itching, jaundice, and shaking.
Dr Gideon Hirschfield, Consultant Hepatologist at University Hospitals Birmingham, has warned that some women will face severe liver damage if PBC is not diagnosed early enough. However, a third of women affected are not diagnosed within three years, and one in ten are not diagnosed within five years. The PBC Foundation states that the average delay in receiving a correct diagnosis for PBC is two years and three months from the time that a patient first visits a GP.
Dr Hirschfield said:
of these women there is effective treatment. For those who don’t
respond to that treatment, there are lots of new drugs in
the pipeline which we hope in future will help them.”
PBC Foundation – research & results
The PBC Foundation studied over 200 patients. Symptoms included dry eyes, dry mouth, and tiredness. Some patients also experienced severe itching. The study found that three-quarters of patients visited a GP within six months of experiencing symptoms. However, only 45 per cent of patients were diagnosed within six months, despite the fact that PBC is diagnosable with a blood test.
Collette Thain, founder of the PBC Foundation, who herself went undiagnosed with the condition for almost eight years, said:
in a significant number of cases.
“PBC liver damage is as severe as that experienced by
alcoholics but has nothing to do with lifestyle.
“There needs to be more commitment to raising awareness among GPs
and frontline healthcare professionals so that when high-risk
women come in complaining of these symptoms, they are
not assumed to be menopausal, or neurotic,
but are correctly tested and treated.”
While there is no cure for PBC, some treatments are available to prevent liver damage and reduce symptoms. One treatment involves the sue of ursodeoxycholic acid, a chemical which occurs naturally in bile. However, this treatment costs around £1,000 per year per patient.
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Source: Mail Online