Sunday 8th September marks International Primary Biliary Cholangitis (PBC) day.
PBC is an autoimmune condition which affects the liver. Without treatment, PBC attacks the bile ducts within the liver, which subsequently damage the surrounding liver cells.
Symptoms of liver disease can often be very subtle, or simply not present at all during the early stages. Therefore, raising awareness of liver health, and the role it plays in our health and wellbeing, is important. Early diagnosis means that invasive treatment, such as liver transplantation, or worse, premature death, can often be avoided.
At present it’s not known what causes PBC, and there isn’t a cure. What is known is that like so many autoimmune conditions gender is a factor, with nine in ten PBC cases diagnosed being women. Importantly, once diagnosed, for many people medication can slow down the progress of the condition, and those who respond well may see no impact on their life expectancy at all.
Whilst PBC is relatively rare, with an estimated 22,000 people in the UK thought to have the condition, International PBC day is an opportunity to talk about liver health, raise awareness, and to break down some of the stigma attached to liver disease.
In Brighton and Hove, figures show that hospital admission rates for liver disease are around 20% more than in England as a whole. Furthermore, while rates have increased nationally, the scale of the increase has been larger in the city.
Irrespective of the cause of liver disease, whether it’s from autoimmune conditions like PBC, or for preventable reasons, late diagnosis is happening far too frequently, and the impact of this can be devastating for those affected and their families. Figures from the Liver Trust suggest that for three quarters of people diagnosed with liver disease it is too late for intervention, or lifestyle changes. This needs to change.
With liver disease being the biggest cause of death for those aged between 34-49 years old, and the third commonest cause of premature death in the UK, I’ll be writing to the Minister about the recommendations made by the Lancet Liver Commission to tackle the shocking, and rising, number of premature deaths from liver disease in the UK.
I’ll also be asking what they are doing to encourage, and fund, research into autoimmune diseases, like PBC – which is needed to get a better understanding of the triggers, and ensure that those at greater risk of developing the condition are able to access treatment at the earliest opportunity.
For anyone affected by PBC, the PBC Foundation are there to help with support and advice. Shockingly, they currently receive no Government funding, despite being an invaluable point of contact for those affected by the condition.
The Liver Trust also have information about liver health on their website.