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Cholangitis is a medical condition in which the bile duct system is inflamed. The bile ducts carry bile from the liver and gallbladder to the first part of the small intestine.

Inflammation of the bile duct system causes swelling. This swelling will disrupt the circulatory system of the bile system, which is the fluid your body requires for the digestive process.

In addition, bile also functions to clean waste from the liver. Blocked bile ducts will trigger bile to flow back into the liver. This condition can cause damage to the liver and other organs.

There are two types of cholangitis, namely:

  • Chronic cholangitis — this condition occurs slowly. Symptoms only appear after 5-20 years.
  • Acute cholangitis — this condition occurs suddenly and over a short period of time.

Most causes of cholangitis are due to a bacterial infection and it often occurs suddenly. In certain cases, this condition can be long-term and chronic. Cholangitis may be caused by autoimmune conditions.

Causes of Cholangitis

Generally, the inflammation of bile ducts can be due to bacterial infection that affects the blocked bile duct. 

In addition, there are several other causes of cholangitis, namely:

  • Tumor
  • Blood clot
  • Swollen pancreas
  • Parasitic infection
  • Narrowing of the canal due to surgery

In some cases, blocked bile ducts can be caused by gallstones or mud that disrupts the bile ducts’ performance. It is also triggered by autoimmune diseases such as primary sclerosing cholangitis.

There are also several other causes that causes a person to develop cholangitis, such as:

  • Backflow of bacteria from the small intestine
  • Blood infection
  • Endoscopic test that inserts a small tube into the body

When to See a Doctor for Cholangitis?

The initial diagnosis of cholangitis can be made through a physical test conducted by a gastroenterologist. 

Patients will be asked to do blood tests such as:

  • Complete blood count to determine the number of white blood cells. When a patient is infected, the patient’s body will be filled with white blood cells in large amounts
  • Liver function tests are done by taking blood to find out if the patient’s liver is functioning properly.
  • Blood culture test is done to detect blood infection

In addition to blood tests, the doctor may also order the patient to undergo a series of imaging tests, such as:

  • Ultrasound, a test that produces images of internal organs via sound waves. This test is done to observe the condition of the organs in the body, including the liver.
  • Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan, a test performed to determine areas of blood clots.
  • Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), a test to identify abnormalities in the abdomen. MRCP can show if the bile duct is blocked by stones. The probe uses magnets and radio frequency to produce an image.
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a test that combines X-ray and endoscopic procedures by injecting contrast dye into the bile.
  • Percutaneous Transhepatic Cholangiography (PTC), a test done by inserting a needle through the skin into the liver. The bile duct is given a contrast dye so that it can be seen more clearly on X-rays. This method is used to open the bile ducts if doctors are unable to do it internally with ERCP.

Symptoms of Cholangitis

Symptoms of cholangitis vary from patient to patient. Generally, the symptoms that appear are:

  • Pain in the upper right abdomen
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Low blood pressure
  • Tiredness

Symptoms of cholangitis can also be diagnosed by examining other organs. Symptoms affecting organs include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • High cholesterol
  • Swollen spleen
  • Swelling of the liver
  • Hyperthyroidism

The symptoms of cholangitis are similar to other medical conditions. For this reason, further examination is required to confirm the symptoms of cholangitis.

Treatment for Cholangitis

Patients diagnosed with cholangitis will likely be advised to stay in the hospital for a few days. The patient will be given antibiotics to fight off the bacteria.

Cholangitis treatments include releasing fluid in the blocked bile duct. This method is performed with Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

The ERCP procedure is performed by inserting a long thin tube (endoscope) into the mouth. The tube can cover the entire esophagus down to the stomach and bile duct. Then, the tube will be directed into the bile duct to drain the blocked fluid inside.

If treatment with ERCP does not work well, the patient may be advised to undergo a surgical procedure. The surgery involves opening the bile ducts to drain the fluid and reduce the fluid buildup.

For acute cholangitis, the patient will be given antibiotics to relieve bacterial infection within ten days. These antibiotics include:

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Metronidazole
  • Penisilin

Meanwhile, chronic cholangitis cannot be cured. Treatment can only relieve symptoms in order to not interfere with the patient’s daily activities.

Treatments to relieve symptoms of chronic cholangitis are:

  • Monitor liver function
  • Remove blocked bile ducts
  • Manage symptoms

Treatment Cost for Cholangitis

The cost for cholangitis treatment varies – depending on the symptoms, the type of cholangitis, and the treatment method chosen.

For more information regarding the estimated costs of cholangitis treatment, contact Smarter Health.

Prevention of Cholangitis

To prevent cholangitis, you should regularly carry out health screenings to determine your overall health condition, including the liver.

If you have a history of gallbladder disease, you should be more careful as you may have greater potential for developing cholangitis. In addition, if a family member has had a similar medical history, you should sign yourself up for health checks.

Changing your lifestyle can also be one way to prevent cholangitis. In fact, a healthy lifestyle can also prevent other diseases. Changes in lifestyle can include stopping smoking, avoiding smoky environments, and reducing alcohol consumption. Cigarette smoke has a negative impact on one’s internal organs, including the liver.

You should only consume medications prescribed by your doctor. This is done to avoid the possibility of developing certain diseases, including cholangitis.

Furthemore, learn to get used to eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Simple exercise such as jogging or walking can help increase endurance and maintain your health. 

Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Cholangitis

Cholangitis is a relatively complex disease with potentially dangerous effects. A patient with cholangitis is usually treated with various methods at the hospital.

After treatment, you should continue to maintain your health at home. It is recommended that you consume your medications regularly to prevent complications or the emergence of new diseases due to past diseases.  

Additionally, you should also maintain a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.

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