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What are the treatment options for primary biliary cirrhosis?

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There is no cure for primary biliary cirrhosis, and treatment is aimed at slowing the disease and prolonging life with ursodeoxycholic acid, liver transplantation and medications, explains Mayo Clinic. Additional therapy focuses on relief of complications and symptoms, such as itching, fatigue, and mouth and eye dryness.

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Ursodeoxycholic acid is a bile acid and is the first line therapy that doctors use to prolong the life of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, according to Mayo Clinic. Its side effects include weight gain, hair loss and diarrhea.

A liver transplant is considered when medical therapy fails and the patient goes into liver failure. The procedure involves replacement of the diseased organ with a healthy donor liver. In many cases primary biliary cirrhosis recurs in the new liver, but the procedure can provide significant life extension for patients, with the five-year survival rate between 80 and 85 percent.

Itching caused by primary biliary cirrhosis is relieved with antihistamines, cholestyramine, rifampin and opioid antagonists, such as naloxone, explains Mayo Clinic. Fatigue is treated with modafinil. Dryness of the mouth and eyes is treated with artificial tears, saliva substitutes, pilocarpine and cimeviline.

Complications of primary biliary cirrhosis include increased portal hypertension, bone loss and vitamin deficiency, suggests Mayo Clinic. Portal hypertension is treated with beta-blockers, nitrates or surgery, and bone loss is treated with vitamin D and calcium supplements. Vitamin deficiency is treated with vitamin supplements, herbs or other nutritional products.

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