Gilbert's (zheel-BAYRZ) syndrome is a common, mild liver disorder in which the liver doesn't properly process a substance called bilirubin. Bilirubin is produced by the breakdown of red blood cells.
Gilbert's syndrome is caused by an inherited gene mutation. You're born with Gilbert's syndrome, though it often goes undiscovered for many years.
Gilbert's syndrome is often discovered by accident, such as when you have a blood test that shows elevated bilirubin levels. Gilbert's syndrome typically doesn't require treatment and doesn't cause serious complications.
Gilbert's syndrome is also known as constitutional hepatic dysfunction, benign unconjugated bilirubinemia and familial nonhemolytic jaundice.
The liver is your largest internal organ. About the size of a football, it's located mainly in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and above your stomach, but a small ...
Gilbert's syndrome typically doesn't cause signs and symptoms. If Gilbert's syndrome causes the level of bilirubin in your blood to rise enough, you may experience:
When to see a doctor
Gilbert's syndrome typically doesn't cause signs or symptoms, so you may not realize you have the disorder until a blood test for some other disease or condition shows an elevated bilirubin level. If this occurs, discuss the results with your doctor.
Gilbert's syndrome is caused by an abnormal gene that you inherit from your parents. The gene controls an enzyme that helps break down bilirubin in your liver. With an ineffective gene, excess amounts of bilirubin build up in your blood.
How the body normally processes bilirubin
How the abnormal gene is passed through families
You have an increased risk of Gilbert's syndrome if both of your parents carry the abnormal gene that causes the disorder.
Factors that may increase the likelihood of signs and symptoms
More side effects with certain medications
In particular, irinotecan (Camptosar), a cancer chemotherapy drug, can reach toxic levels if you have Gilbert's syndrome, causing severe diarrhea. The antiviral indinavir (Crixivan), which is used in people with HIV, may also cause complications in people with Gilbert's syndrome.
Because of this potential effect with certain medications, talk to your doctor before taking any new medications if you have Gilbert's syndrome.
Preparing for your appointment
If a recent blood test revealed that you may have Gilbert's syndrome, you may be worried what this means for your health. At your next appointment, be prepared with a list of questions for your doctor. Discussing Gilbert's syndrome with your doctor may help put your mind at ease or help you feel more in control of your condition.
Here are some questions that might help facilitate a discussion with your doctor:
Tests and diagnosis
Often detected by accident
Although it's present from birth, Gilbert's syndrome usually isn't diagnosed until puberty or later, since bilirubin production increases during puberty.
Treatments and drugs
Gilbert's syndrome generally doesn't require treatment. The bilirubin levels in your blood may fluctuate over time and you may occasionally experience jaundice. But this usually goes away on its own and doesn't require treatment.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Certain events in your life can trigger episodes of higher bilirubin levels in Gilbert's syndrome, leading to jaundice. Doing what you can to manage those situations can help keep bilirubin under control and perhaps prevent bouts of jaundice.
These steps include:
Last Updated: 2010-04-17
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