Definition

What is Gilbert’s syndrome?

Gilbert’s syndrome is a common, harmless liver condition in which the liver doesn’t properly process bilirubin. Bilirubin is produced by the breakdown of red blood cells.

If you have Gilbert’s syndrome — also known as constitutional hepatic dysfunction and familial nonhemolytic jaundice — you’re born with it as a result of an inherited gene mutation. You might not know you have the condition until it’s discovered by accident, such as when a blood test shows elevated bilirubin levels.

Gilbert’s syndrome requires no treatment.

How common is Gilbert’s syndrome?

Gilbert’s syndrome is common, but it’s difficult to know exactly how many people are affected because it doesn’t always cause obvious symptoms. Gilbert’s syndrome affects more men than women. It’s usually diagnosed during a person’s late teens or early twenties. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Gilbert’s syndrome?

The common symptoms of Gilbert’s syndrome are:

  • Jaundice

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Gilbert’s syndrome?

Gilbert’s syndrome is a genetic disorder that’s hereditary (it runs in families). People with the syndrome have a faulty gene which causes the liver to have problems removing bilirubin from the blood.

Normally, when red blood cells reach the end of their life (after about 120 days), haemoglobin – the red pigment that carries oxygen in the blood – breaks down into bilirubin.

The liver converts bilirubin into a water-soluble form, which passes into bile and is eventually removed from the body in urine or stools. Bilirubin gives urine its light yellow colour and stools their dark brown colour.

In Gilbert’s syndrome, the faulty gene means that bilirubin isn’t passed into bile (a fluid produced by the liver to help with digestion) at the normal rate. Instead, it builds up in the bloodstream, giving the skin and white of the eyes a yellowish tinge.

Other than inheriting the faulty gene, there are no known risk factors for developing Gilbert’s syndrome. It isn’t related to lifestyle habits, environmental factors or serious underlying liver problems, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis C.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Gilbert’s syndrome?

There are many risk factors for Gilbert’s syndrome, such as:

  • Both parents carry the abnormal gene that causes the disorder
  • You’re male

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Gilbert’s syndrome diagnosed?

Gilbert’s syndrome can be diagnosed using a blood test to measure the levels of bilirubin in your blood and a liver function test.

When the liver is damaged, it releases enzymes into the blood. At the same time, levels of proteins that the liver produces to keep the body healthy begin to drop. By measuring the levels of these enzymes and proteins, it’s possible to build up a reasonably accurate picture of how well the liver is functioning.

If the test results show you have high levels of bilirubin in your blood, but your liver is otherwise working normally, a confident diagnosis of Gilbert’s syndrome can usually be made.

In certain cases, a genetic test may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis of Gilbert’s syndrome.

How is Gilbert’s syndrome treated?

Gilbert’s syndrome doesn’t require treatment. The bilirubin levels in your blood may fluctuate over time, and you may occasionally have jaundice, which usually resolves on its on with no ill effects.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Gilbert’s syndrome?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Gilbert’s syndrome:

  • Make sure your doctors know you have Gilbert’s syndrome. Because Gilbert’s syndrome affects the way your body processes certain medications, every doctor you visit needs to know about the condition.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Avoid extremely low-calorie diets. Stick to a routine eating schedule, and avoid fasting or skipping meals.
  • Manage stress. Find ways to deal with the stresses in your life, such as exercise, meditation or listening to music.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: September 11, 2017 | Last Modified: September 11, 2017

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