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Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis

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Definition & Facts

Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic liver disease in which the bile ducts inside and outside the liver become inflamed and scarred, and eventually narrowed or blocked. When this happens, bile builds up in the liver and causes further liver damage.

Man scratching itchy skin on his arm.

Symptoms & Causes

Symptoms of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) may include pain in the abdomen, itchy skin, diarrhea, jaundice, feeling tired or weak, and fever. However, many people have no symptoms when they are first diagnosed with PSC. Experts aren’t sure what causes PSC.


Doctors diagnose primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) based on medical and family history, a physical exam, and the results of medical tests. Medical tests used to diagnose PSC may include blood tests, imaging tests, and sometimes liver biopsy.


Doctors can’t cure primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) or keep the disease from getting worse. They can treat narrowed or blocked bile ducts and the symptoms and complications of PSC. Doctors may consider a liver transplant if PSC leads to liver failure.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

A healthy, well-balanced diet is important in all stages of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). Your doctor can recommend a healthy eating plan that provides enough calories and nutrients to help your liver work properly and manage complications.

Clinical Trials

The NIDDK conducts and supports clinical trials in many diseases and conditions, including liver diseases. The trials look to find new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease and improve quality of life.

Related Diagnostic Tests

Related Research

Your Digestive System & How It Works

The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract—also called the digestive tract—and the liver, pancreas, and the gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus.

Last Reviewed February 2022

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Christopher L. Bowlus, M.D., University of California Davis School of Medicine