Overview of Cholestasis

Cholestasis is a liver disease that occurs when the bile production in the liver is reduced or blocked. Bile helps in the digestion of foods, especially fats. As the bile production is altered, it may lead to a buildup of bilirubin.  

Signs and Symptoms of Cholestasis

Extrahepatic and intrahepatic cholestasis both have the same symptoms. These include: 

  • Jaundice 
  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea 
  • Dark urine 
  • Light colored stool 
  • Pain in abdomen 
  • Excessive itching 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Disturbed sleep  

Types of Cholestasis

There are two types of cholestasis namely: 

  • Intrahepatic Cholestasis - this type of cholestasis originates from within the liver.

  • Extrahepatic Cholestasis - this type of cholestasis is caused by some physical barriers like a blockage. Basically, anything that restricts the flow of bile. 

Causes of Cholestasis

There are numerous causes of cholestasis. Some possible causes of Intrahepatic cholestasis are: 

  • Some underlying disease 
  • Infection 
  • Drug usage 
  • Genetic disorders 
  • Hormonal changes also affect the bile flow
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bacterial abscesses in the liver 

Extrahepatic cholestasis is caused by blockages. These include: 

  • Gallstones 
  • Cysts
  • Tumors 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • A nearby mass or tumor can increase the pressure on the bile ducts 

Pregnancy can also increase our chances of having cholestasis. 


Risk Factors of Cholestasis

Pregnancy itself is a possible risk factor for cholestasis. Some factors that can further increase your chances of having cholestasis are: 

  • Personal or family history of cholestasis in pregnancy 
  • History of liver damage or some liver disease 
  • Pregnancy with twins is also a possible risk factor 

Complications of Cholestasis 

Long-term complications of cholestasis also increase when there is a pregnancy involved. Some complications of cholestasis in pregnancy can be;


  • Fetal distress
  • Preterm birth 
  • Baby starts having bowel movements
  • Severe breathing problems





Your doctor (hepatologist or gastroenterologist) will diagnose this disease after performing some tests. These tests can include:

  • Blood tests 
  • Imaging tests- such as MRI Scan or CT Scan may also be recommended as these tests are a follow-up of blood tests, in case they show something abnormal. 
  • Liver biopsy 

If you are suffering from jaundice, your doctor will first try to determine whether the cause of jaundice lies inside or outside the body by analyzing the symptoms and by performing a physical examination.  

Treatment of Cholestasis | When to Consult a Doctor

The treatment of cholestasis depends upon whether you have intrahepatic or extrahepatic cholestasis. 

Some possible treatment options can be: 

  • For a blockage in the bile duct - surgery or endoscopy 
  • For itching - cholestyramine 
  • For a blockage within the liver- there are many treatments and only your doctor can suggest you the best one. 
  • Your doctor might also suggest some calcium and vitamin D supplements. 

In case you exhibit any concerning signs and symptoms of cholestasis, consult a medical professional as soon as possible.