Bilirubin is a pigment formed after the breakdown of old red blood cells in the body. It is yellowish in colour and it is broken down further by the liver and eliminated as bile. And, bile is a digestive liquid produced by the liver that helps in fat absorption.
Why are we talking about bilirubin here? There is a condition named Gilbert syndrome wherein the liver is unable to process this bilirubin properly. So let’s read further to understand this condition better.
What is Gilbert Syndrome?
As mentioned above, this condition occurs when the liver is unable to process bilirubin properly. This is a genetic disorder and it remains pretty much unknown to the patient unless it is discovered by a blood test which would typically show bilirubin levels higher than normal.
Is this condition common?
Gilbert syndrome affects about 3-9% of the global population – for every 3 people, one person has Gilbert syndrome and most often they do not know that they actually have the condition. It has been seen to be more prevalent among males rather than females and affects everyone irrespective of their age, race, and ethnicity.
How is Gilbert syndrome caused?
Gilbert syndrome is a genetic disorder and it is carried from one generation to another via a mutation in one of the genes. The gene in question is the UGT1A1 gene which when mutated leads to Gilbert Syndrome.
The healthy gene ensures production of enzymes by the liver that break down bilirubin and excrete it from the body whereas a mutated gene causes production of lesser or no production of enzymes which results in a condition where bilirubin is not eliminated from the body through bile. This further leads to increase in bilirubin levels in the blood and this condition is called hyperbilirubinemia.
What are the symptoms of Gilbert syndrome?
The principal symptom of this condition is the appearance of a yellowish tinge in the eyes and skin because of high bilirubin levels, much similar to the jaundice that happens in newborn infants. Some of the causes of high bilirubin levels include fasting, dehydration, heavy exercise, illness, stress, illness.
However, most often the symptoms of this condition are not visibly seen. Most of the patients find out they have Gilbert Syndrome after a blood test that indicates high bilirubin level (taken for some other illness, perhaps).
Those symptoms include jaundice which is the most common and direct indication of high bilirubin level. Some other symptoms include dark coloured urine, light coloured stools, dizziness, lack of concentration, diarrhoea, nausea, tiredness, fever, poor appetite.
Do complications occur due to Gilbert syndrome?
Gilbert Syndrome is pretty mild and does not lead to any complications or health issues in the long-term.
When should one see a doctor?
It is vital to get the patient treated if jaundice occurs, but it does not necessarily mean the patient has Gilbert Syndrome. Jaundice occurs due to several other reasons too. You can seek jaundice treatment in Chennai if you suffer from any of these symptoms
What is the treatment for Gilbert Syndrome?
Usually, gilbert syndrome is not treated as the symptoms disappear as the liver starts healing. Since the symptoms are usually mild in Gilbert Syndrome, there is no Liver treatment done as such.
Can Gilbert syndrome be prevented? Since this is a genetic (inherited) condition, there is no way that Gilbert syndrome can be prevented from occurring.