Q:

Do you need to see a specialist for the treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis?

A:

Quick Answer

After being diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis, patients are often referred to liver specialists, known as hepatologists, and digestive system specialists, known as gastroenterologists, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, the disease may not require immediate treatment because symptoms are sometimes delayed for years after diagnosis.

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Full Answer

Specialists are frequently involved in the diagnosis and management of primary biliary cirrhosis, which typically requires imaging tests and biopsies, states the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Blood tests performed by primary physicians often reveal the first signs of the condition: increases in liver enzymes and antimitochondrial antibodies in the blood. Patients are then sent to radiologists for testing, such as magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography. The procedure involves creating a magnetic field in the body and projecting radio waves to produce images of organs and tissues.

Ultrasounds are another option that rely on sound-wave transmission to produce representations of the body's interior, the Mayo Clinic notes. Doctors may also recommend endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography for bile duct X-rays. A biopsy, which involves studying a liver tissue sample, is considered definitive and often reserved for cases when previous tests produce uncertain results.

Primary biliary cirrhosis is a chronic autoimmune disease that develops when bile ducts are inflamed and filled with toxic waste, causing scarring and deterioration in the liver, states the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Liver tissue becomes too worn and damaged to enable healthy blood flow, leading to organ failure.

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