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Biliary Atresia

A serious liver condition found in infants, Biliary Atresia is a condition marked by an obstruction of the bile ducts. It happens to be a major indication of liver transplants in kids. Biliary atresia is quite rare with a prevalence of about 1 in 8,000 to 1 in 18,000. It has been found that about 20% of children who have biliary atresia also have defects in other organs, such as the heart and spleen. The problem can be detected only after the child is born. 

What is Biliary Atresia?
Biliary Atresia is a rare condition which initially presents with jaundice-like symptoms, such as yellowing of eyes and skin. The condition is seen in infants and involves their bile ducts and liver. The latter is responsible for the production of bile juice, which then travels to the intestines, via the bile ducts, to aid in the process of digestion. In the case of biliary atresia, there is a blockage in the bile ducts, that prevents the bile from moving out and it gets trapped inside the liver, giving rise to serious complications like cirrhosis.

What is the cause of Biliary Atresia?
The exact cause of biliary atresia is not known. In some children, it could be due to congenital malformations of the bile ducts. Some may also develop it as a result of an autoimmune reaction that gets triggered by a viral infection. Other causes of biliary atresia have been listed below:

  •  Severe inflammation due to an immune system disorder
  •  Being exposed to certain toxins and chemicals
  •  Genetic mutations which are not inherited

What are the symptoms of Biliary Atresia?
Symptoms that might suggest that a child has Biliary Atresia include:

  •  Pale stools 
  •  Dark and pungent-smelling urine 
  •  Swelling in the abdomen
  •  Underweight 
  •  Fluid build-up in the abdomen 
  •  Loss of liver function. 

When is the right time to see a doctor?
It is advisable to see a liver specialists as soon as you notice any of the symptoms. Experiencing these does not necessarily indicate that your little one has biliary atresia and hence opt for a  detailed assessment before reaching any conclusion.

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