OCCUPIED A university professor and mother of two Mhari Brotherston used to feel tired at the end of the day. But sounding the alarm when she began to feel exhausted so relentlessly he was sleeping in bed at 7 pm almost every night. Also constantly nauseous, she lost weight without even trying, reducing the 8th only 8 pounds 6ST – tiny her figure 5 feet 6 inches.
“The symptoms came on very slowly and at first I thought it was down to juggle my full time job and caring for young children. They were six and nine years at the time,” says Mhari . “But after a few months she was very worried and wondered if I might have cancer.”
He went back and forth to the doctors who conducted tests but could not find anything wrong. “They thought it was menopause approaches or a thyroid problem,” says Mhari, 45, who is married to Neill, 52, a car salesman and lives with her children Dylan, 15, and Naimh, 12, East Lothian.
In 2010, a year after their symptoms began suffered a burst appendix. The doctors concluded this had been the cause of his poor health. But I did not get Mhari better.
“could do things with the kids, as I was so tired that I would go to bed immediately after tea,” she says. “I also had skin incredibly itchy occasionally.
felt like bugs were crawling under it. But I suspected just have sensitive skin.” Even doctors could shed light on their symptoms. A blood test showed he had a little unusual liver function, but as this can occur for a variety of reasons, even a minor infection, which was dismissed as nothing to worry about.
“I came to the point where I was thinking, ‘this is all in my head?’ Says Mhari.
It was not until 2012, three years after it first went wrong , she discovered that it certainly was not psychosomatic. suddenly Mhari collapsed and, after a referral to a liver specialist who carried out a blood test that had not had before, discovered he had a liver disease called biliary cholangitis primary (CBP). Although few people have heard of it the UK has one of the highest rates of the disease in the world.
Its exact cause is unknown, but the theory is that is activated by the body’s immune system itself attacks the bile ducts that carry bile (which the liver uses to digest fats) outside the liver and intestines. as ducts bile damage can not drain away from the liver, eventually causing scarring or cirrhosis.
About 20,000 people in the UK have PBC and 90 percent of them are women. Typical symptoms include fatigue, nausea and itchy skin. “It is diagnosed mainly between 40 and 60 years old and in the early lethargy stages is the most common of which is often mistaken middle-aged symptom, menopause or depression,” says Professor James Neuberger, a professor of hepatology Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
“Fatigue has many different causes so it can be confusing for doctors, but a middle-aged woman fatigue and liver function tests are abnormal then they have to be thinking of PBC.” The disease can be diagnosed with a blood test that detects certain antibodies (called anti-mitochondrial antibodies) that are a sign that PBC is present.
“Some people are not diagnosed until the liver is damaged by what has jaundice,” says Professor Neuberger. “They are often accused by doctors or friends of alcohol or drug abuse.
” However, this disease has do with any of that relationship. “PBC is a . progressive disease that worsens during decades the main treatment is ursodeoxycholic acid – a tablet that causes bile left in the less toxic and harmful liver “is not a cure, but can significantly slow the progression of the disease”. adds professor Neuberger. However, the drug does not work for everyone and, finally, some may have such severe liver damage who need a transplant.
“those most at risk of needing a transplant are who are diagnosed before age 50, “says professor Neuberger. Mhari supports diagnosis terrified her.” I thought he would die and never get to see my children grow up, “she says. Coming through a charity to people with PBC and talk to other people with the disease made him feel better.
She began tablets ursodeoxycholic acid, but liver function tests have shown that they are not working and your liver is still damaged. “It’s funny, because people say to me, ‘You look so well’. But I still get very tired and itching can drive you crazy me,” says Mhari.
However anti-nausea drug has helped his appetite and weight has returned to a healthy 9st. She says: “It is possible that you may need a liver transplant in the future, but for now I have a reasonable quality of life and I am very happy.” I try not to think about what might happen in the future “
for more information on primary biliary cholangitis visit the website of the foundation pbcfoundation.org.uk