Definition & Symptoms

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a disease that affects the bile ducts. Bile ducts carry digestive enzymes from the liver and gall bladder to the small intestine. In PSC, the bile ducts become inflamed and scarred over time, resulting in blockages and narrowing. Overtime, this inflammation may lead to liver failure and possibly the development of cancer. Symptoms of the disease typically include yellowing of the skin or eyes, abdominal pain, change in stool color, confusion or disorientation, and swelling of the lower extremities or abdominal cavity.

Risk Factors

Typically diagnosed in middle age, people at risk for this condition include men, patients with inflammatory bowel disease, and those that live in the United States or northern Europe.


Patients with PSC need lifetime monitoring of liver function with blood work, ultrasounds, MRIs and endoscopy.


Symptomatic treatment is available for PSC. At times, endsocopic interventions are necessary to open blockages or screen for cancer. Ultimately many patients with severe, end stage PSC may need a liver transplant.

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