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Q: General Itching caused by Liver Disease, Jaundice, Reduced Bile Flow ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: General Itching caused by Liver Disease, Jaundice, Reduced Bile Flow
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: lmoody-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 17 Oct 2003 19:12 PDT
Expires: 16 Nov 2003 18:12 PST
Question ID: 267357
My mother is suffering from a form of liver disease, which is causing
reduced bile flow, and jaundice.  Doctors advise that it is not very
serious, and are treating her. However, she suffers from exaggerated
general itching all over her body, and it is literally driving her
nuts.  I am looking for suggestions on how we can temporarily reduce
this itching until the doctors are able to properly treat her
Subject: Re: General Itching caused by Liver Disease, Jaundice, Reduced Bile Flow
Answered By: eponine-ga on 17 Oct 2003 22:10 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

I must begin by stating that I am not a doctor, and that neither I nor
Google Answers are qualified to dispense medical advice. That said...

The primary source of information on itching caused by liver disease
comes from the studies of Dr. Nora Bergasa, who is sometimes known as
"the queen of itching."

The cause of itching (also known as pruritus) in people suffering from
liver disease isn't known. Doctors have several theories. There is
some evidence that endogenous opioids (enkaphalins) in plasma (which
are neurotransmitters), stimulate the brain and cause itching. Another
theory is that substances accumulate in the blood.

Currently, several medicines are used to treat such itching. They
include cholestyramine (which is taken with food); rifampicin, an
antibiotic; naloxone and naltrexone (in low doses); and serotonin
type-3 receptor antagonists. These medicines work for some patients,
but there is no one medicine known to work for all patients.

There are some clinical trials being conducted to try to find relief
from itching for those with liver disease. One, at the University of
Texas, is looking at sertraline; another at Columbia in New York, is
focusing on gabapentin.

It is possible that antihistamines may help to reduce itching related
to jaundice. Phototherapy (also known as sunlight therapy) may also

The PBC Foundation (PBC is short for Primary Biliary Cirrhosis) offers
common-sense tips on reducing itching on their website: Some of their
recommendations are to wear cotton rather than nylon or wool; to avoid
becoming overheated; and to soak in a cool bath with bicarbonate of

Your mother should definitely discuss the itching with her doctors to
try to determine the best way to lessen the discomfort. It appears
that the itching should go away as the primary cause (the liver
disease itself) is treated.

I hope that she feels better soon!


Search terms:
liver disease pruritus treatment
liver disease itching

Sources: "Itching in Liver
Disease" by Nora V. Bergasa, M.D.
lmoody-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
This is exactly the information that I was looking for.  Thank you very much!

Subject: Re: General Itching caused by Liver Disease, Jaundice, Reduced Bile Flow
From: bthomps-ga on 29 Apr 2004 20:13 PDT
I have had this disease for over 30 years and know exactly about the
itching that you're talking about. I tried all of the remedies out
there except the ones in trials now. They are very heavy duty
medicines and I don't particularly want to take them. The only thing
that helped my itching (and it seemed to help a lot) was SAMe
(S-Adenosyl-Methionine). It's used a lot in Europe and if you look on
Medline you'll find papers written about it's use in liver diseases.
It's available at drugstores and doesn't have any bad side effects so
you might want to give it a try.

Good luck! I hope it helps as much as it helped me because I was going
crazy with the itching for years.

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