Itch in primary biliary cirrhosis: a patients' perspective

Acta Derm Venereol. 2008;88(1):34-7. doi: 10.2340/00015555-0350.


The perception of itch in primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is not characterized. Patients with primary biliary cirrhosis who were members of the PBCers Organization were invited to participate in an on-line survey addressing certain characteristics of their itch. Patients used their own words in the questions that asked for descriptions. A total of 238 subjects responded to the survey; of these, 231 were women, and 165 (69%) reported itch. One hundred and twenty-four patients from the 165 (75%) reported that itch preceded the diagnosis of primary biliary cirrhosis. A total of 58 from 164 (35%) respondents described their itch as "bugs crawling". Fifty-seven of 88 (64.7%) subjects reported that something cool relieved their itch, and 69 of 112 (61.6%) reported that heat worsened it. One hundred and seven of 164 (65.2%) respondents reported that the itch was worse at night. The most commonly prescribed medications were antihistamines and cholestyramine, and the most common type of medication reported as being associated with relief was antihistamine drugs. There was no systematic approach to the evaluation and treatment of itch in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. Education on the subject of itch in primary biliary cirrhosis is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antipruritics / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paresthesia / etiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Prevalence
  • Pruritus / drug therapy
  • Pruritus / epidemiology
  • Pruritus / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Antipruritics