PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis)

May 3, 2022

What is PSC (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis)?

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is similar to PBC (primary biliary cholangitis) but it affects the bile ducts inside and outside the liver. It causes the bile ducts to become inflamed, scarred and narrowed which can eventually lead to liver cirrhosis.

Bile is important to the way the body functions. It helps with digestion and rids your body of bad cholesterol, toxins, and worn-out red blood cells. That is why it is vital that you receive treatment for PSC as soon as possible.

What is the Cause of PSC?

It is still unclear what causes PSC, but it is thought to be an immune response to a toxin or infection. PSC has a genetic predisposition, meaning if a family member has or had PSC, you are more likely to have it as well.

Risk Factors

Other risk factors of PSC include:

  • Age- PSC is most commonly diagnosed in people between ages 30 and 50
  • Being a man
  • Having IBD
  • Heritage- people with Northern European heritage are at higher risk of getting PSC

What are the Symptoms of PSC?

PSC is most commonly diagnosed before any symptoms appear during a routine test for other conditions. Treatment of PSC is more effective when caught earlier.

The early symptoms of PSC could include:

  • Fatigue
  • Itching

Other common symptoms of PSC include:

  • Swollen feet and ankles
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle soreness
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Dark skin not related to sun exposure
  • High cholesterol
  • Dark and greasy stools
  • Brittle bones
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Chills
  • Night Sweats
  • Unwanted weight loss

It is important to make an appointment with your nearest GI Alliance gastroenterologist if you have intense itching on much of your body, or if you feel very tired all the time. It is especially important to bring these symptoms up to your doctor if you have a type of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

What are the Treatments Available for PSC?

The medical community has not found a cure for PSC. Most of the treatments involve treating the narrowed bile ducts and the symptoms and complications associated with the disease.

Treatments for PSC include:

  • Relieving itching symptoms with topical creams
  • Antibiotics for infections
  • Balloon dilation for narrowed bile ducts
  • Stents for narrowed or blocked bile ducts
  • Nutrition support
  • Liver transplant
  • Avoid Alcohol
  • Exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Surgery to temporarily open blocked bile ducts