Symptoms - Primary biliary cholangitis (primary biliary cirrhosis)

Most people are only diagnosed with PBC after having a routine blood test for another reason. Some people have symptoms early on and some may develop them later.

People who have symptoms may experience:

  • bone or joint aches
  • fatigue – this is a common symptom (but not always caused by PBC) and can have a significant impact on your daily activities
  • itchy skin – this can be widespread or it can only affect a single area; it may be worse at night, when in contact with fabrics, when warm, or during pregnancy
  • dry eyes and mouth
  • problems sleeping at night and feeling very sleepy during the day
  • pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the tummy
  • dizziness when standing up (postural or orthostatic hypotension)

Some people with PBC may also have symptoms of another condition, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Read about the causes of PBC for more information about related conditions.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and this isn’t always related to the degree of liver damage you have.

Some people with PBC have severe symptoms but their liver isn't severely damaged, while others may have significant liver damage but no symptoms or only mild ones.

Advanced PBC

Medication can usually help to delay liver damage in people with PBC, but as the liver slowly becomes more scarred and damaged (eventually ending up with cirrhosis), you may have additional symptoms.

These can include:

  • yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • a build-up of fluid in the legs, ankles and feet (oedema)
  • build-up of fluid in your tummy that can make you look heavily pregnant (ascites)
  • the formation of small fatty deposits on the skin, usually around your eyes (xanthelasmata)
  • dark urine and pale stools
  • a tendency to bleed and bruise more easily
  • problems with memory and concentration

Read more about the symptoms of cirrhosis.

Page last reviewed: 06/11/2017
Next review due: 06/11/2020