Years ago, I started having intense stomach pain that radiated into my back and came in waves of agony. After twenty minutes to an hour, the pain would fade away and I’d quickly forget about it, assuming it was something I ate…until the next attack. A friend helped me realize that I was likely having gallbladder attacks and the hospital eventually confirmed that. What’s more, the doctor mentioned that the attacks had caused some hardening in my liver as well.
That was my first lesson on just how important liver health was. I knew I could live without my gallbladder, but nobody can survive without their liver. In fact, that’s even where its name comes from! Luckily, a gallbladder surgery cured my own liver issues. But for many people, complications with their liver are far more serious, far more dangerous and far harder to treat.
Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), formerly known as primary biliary cirrhosis, is just such an example. This rare autoimmune disease attacks the bile ducts in the liver and if the disease and its symptoms aren’t managed properly, can cause serious health issues and even the need for a liver transplant. I was shocked to learn that since 1988, PBC has been the second leading overall cause of liver transplants among United States women, behind only Hepatitis C.
As if that wasn’t frightening enough, PBC is also much more common in women. Nearly 90% of people with PBC are women, with the disease affecting about 1 of every 1,000 women over 40. Luckily, early diagnosis and treatment can help those living with PBC to enjoy a long and healthy life. The patient stories on the www.livingwithpbc.com website are proof of that!
The story of 42-year-old Wendy’s struggles with PBC was one that really spoke to me personally. She was chronically tired and displayed a few other symptoms, but most doctors brushed off her concerns, categorizing her as a typical exhausted busy mother. She persisted, was even misdiagnosed not once, but twice, and finally learned she had PBC. Her journey is a great reminder to women everywhere to trust that intuition and don’t ever give up searching for an answer if you know something isn’t right with your body.
I’m a big believer that knowledge is power, so I’m visiting www.livingwithpbc.com to read some of the other patient stories, learn about the symptoms and see what’s being done to help those living with the disease. Like many diseases, PBC often has no symptoms in its early stages and the later symptoms could easily be dismissed just as Wendy’s were. And those with the disease feel that there is a lack of treatment options at the moment, something that will hopefully be rectified as knowledge of PBC increases. Visit the website to learn more too. The knowledge may just help you or someone you love one day in the future!