The cells of the liver secrete a number of compounds that are carried into the intestinal tract by the bile ducts. Secondary biliary cirrhosis occurs from prolonged obstruction of the major bile ducts. This obstruction can lead to dilation of the bile ducts and damage to the liver cells. For cirrhosis to develop, this condition usually has been present for at least several months, if not longer.
Causes of Secondary Biliary Cirrhosis
Secondary biliary cirrhosis in adults is most likely to be the result of strictures or narrowing of the bile ducts that have occurred from gallstones or surgery. Frequently, there is a history of cholangitis, or infection within the bile duct system. Chronic pancreatitis may also be a cause of secondary biliary cirrhosis. In children, congenital abnormalities, such as biliary atresia and cystic fibrosis, can lead to the development of secondary biliary cirrhosis.
Signs and Symptoms of Secondary Biliary Cirrhosis
Secondary biliary cirrhosis produces jaundice - yellowing of the skin and eyes. Itching and fever are common. Pain may develop from the damaged liver leading to right upper abdominal pain. In severe cases, cirrhosis will lead to increased pressure in the vessels supplying the gastrointestinal tract. Esophageal varices may develop. These distended veins can bleed, leading to vomiting blood and black, tarry stools. Anemia can develop, producing weakness, fatigue, rapid heart rate, pallor and exercise intolerance.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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