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What is Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)

November 13, 2020

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic, progressive disease of the gallbladder and liver characterized by inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts. In patients with PSC, bile ducts are blocked from inflammation and scarring which causes the bile to accumulate in the liver. This, in turn, gradually causes cirrhosis in the liver leading to loss of liver function.

PSC is a slow-moving disease. Patients may not experience symptoms for years and liver failure often occur 10-15 years after diagnosis, sometimes even longer.

Currently, there is no cure or specific treatment for PSC. However, Florida Research Institute regularly conducts clinical trials for PSC. This provides a chance for PSC subjects to access new medications for the disease before they are on the market.

Symptoms of PSC
  • Itchy skin
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Belly pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes, called jaundice
  • Chills and fever from infection of your bile ducts
Living with PSC
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Ask about the availability of clinical trials
  • Osteoporosis is very common with PSC. Get your bone density checked
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about vitamin levels
  • If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you should have a colonoscopy every year.
  • People with PSC are at risk for cancers of the bile duct, liver, gallbladder, and colon. Talk to your gastroenterologist about screening options.
  • Ask us about getting a FibroScan to measure scarring of the liver
What causes PSC?

Nobody knows the exact cause of PSC. The disease can start at any age but most patients are diagnosed around ages 30 to 40. Possible causes include:

  • Family history
  • Presence of other GI illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease
  • Abnormal immune system