Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC)

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a disease that affects the bile ducts in the liver.  “Cholangitis” describes the inflammation in the bile ducts, and “sclerosing” describes the hardening and scarring of the bile ducts as a result of the chronic inflammation.  Primary sclerosing cholangitis can lead to liver damage and eventually liver failure.   The only cure for primary sclerosing cholangitis at this time is a liver transplant.  A liver transplant is usually not recommended unless the individual with primary sclerosing cholangitis has severe liver damage.

People who have primary sclerosing cholangitis may experience: abdominal pain, chills, diarrhea, fatigue, fever, itchiness, weight loss, and yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice).  Primary sclerosing cholangitis may not cause any symptoms when it is in its early stages.
At this time it is not known what causes primary sclerosing cholangitis.  Some experts believe the condition may be caused by an immune system reaction to an infection or a toxin in a person who is predisposed to developing the disease.  It has been found that primary sclerosing cholangitis occurs more often in people who have certain medical conditions, especially inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or chronic ulcerative colitis).

Treatment for primary sclerosing cholangitis focuses on reducing signs and symptoms of the disease.  At this time that there are not medications that have proved to slow or reverse the liver damage associated with the disease.  Antihistamines may be prescribed to help control the itching such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl).  Bile-acid-binding drugs, such as cholestyramine, may also be prescribed.


  1. Jackson, Frank W., M.D.   “Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC).” Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology.  Gicare.com. Web 28 Aug 2013.
  2. Primary sclerosing cholangitis.”  Mayo Clinic.  Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.  April 9, 2011.  Web 28 Aug 2013.