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Let us go through Gilbert syndrome symptoms, causes, treatment and other pertinent information in this article.

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Gilbert’s syndrome is a mild liver abnormality condition. It occurs when the liver fails to process the bilirubin properly. Bilirubin is a substance produced when the red blood cells breakdown. An inherited gene mutation causes Gilbert’s syndrome. One may have Gilbert’s syndrome since birth, but it may go unnoticed for many years.a

One may come to know about the presence of elevated levels of bilirubin via a regular checkup that involves blood testing. Gilbert’s syndrome doesn’t cause any serious complications and as such it doesn’t need extensive treatment.

Gilbert’s syndrome is also referred to by the names ‘constitutional hepatic dysfunction’ as well as familial nonhemolytic jaundice and benign unconjugated bilirubinemia.

Symptoms of Gilbert’s syndrome

Gilbert’s syndrome doesn’t show any particular symptom. If the levels of bilirubin show a rise in blood, one may experience the following signs:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • General weakness
  • The white of the eyes and the skin may turn into a jaundice-like yellow

Some of the complications of Gilbert’s syndrome are discussed below:

  • Jaundice: Gilbert’s syndrome can cause jaundice which can be milder when the bilirubin levels are lower and may get cured on its own. When the levels of bilirubin are extremely high, the doctor may administer Phenobarbital to correct the levels of bilirubin.
  • Side effects of the drugs: Certain medications for treating Gilbert’s syndrome can also cause some side effects, because the enzymes that help to process the bilirubin are also involved in clearing the medicines from the body.
    • Administering irinotecan, a cancer drug, can increase the toxicity levels within the cancer patient who also has Gilbert’s syndrome, and can result in severe diarrhea.
    • Administering antiviral indinavir, a HIV drug, can cause complications within a subject with Gilbert’s syndrome. As such one has to strictly follow the directions of the doctor.

When to visit a doctor

The above shown symptoms of jaundice, stomach pain and fatigue may have many other reasons. Gilbert’s syndrome generally doesn’t tend to show any symptoms. The presence of Gilbert’s syndrome comes to light, when a blood test is done for some other disease. If any one finds the abnormal levels of bilirubin from the blood test, then he/she should contact the doctor for consultation.

Causes of Gilbert syndrome

Gilbert’s syndrome is an inherited disease of abnormal gene received from parents. Many people carry a single copy of this abnormal gene and two copies are required to develop the syndrome. Each one of the parents (carriers of the abnormal gene) can pass on one gene copy to their children, which can then cause Gilbert’s syndrome in the child.

Enzyme which causes the bilirubin breakdown in liver is controlled by the gene. Excess of bilirubin in blood is produced, when the gene is ineffective.

When the body breaks down old red blood cells, the yellowish pigments called bilirubin is produced. Bilirubin travel and reaches the liver through the blood stream. The enzyme present in the liver breaks down the bilirubin and wipes out them from the blood stream. The liver passes the bilirubin into the intestine and excreted with stool. However a small quantity of bilirubin left in blood.

Some of the risk factors of Gilbert’s syndrome are as follows:

  • There is an increased risk of getting Gilbert’s syndrome, if both the parents pass on the abnormal gene to their child.

Certain conditions which may increase the likelihood of the signs of Gilbert’s syndrome are:

  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Sickness such as cold and flu
  • Eating a low calorie food or fasting
  • Menstruation
  • Excessive exercise

Tests and diagnosis for Gilbert syndrome

  • Generally the presence of high levels of bilirubin is detected by chance when a blood test is done for some other condition.
  • Without having any known reasons, one may have jaundice.

Even though the Gilbert’s syndrome is present from birth, normally it is not diagnosed till the puberty, because the production of bilirubin increases after the puberty.

Blood tests: Blood test can confirm and rule out the presence of Gilbert’s syndrome. A normal blood test is done for the following:

  • Test for bilirubin
  • Liver function tests
  • Complete blood count

Gilbert syndrome treatment

Normally the levels of bilirubin in blood keep fluctuating. Occasionally it may cause jaundice. But it moves out on its own and hence may not need treatment.

Certain events that occur in one’s life can elevate bilirubin levels, causing Gilbert’s syndrome, which in turn can cause jaundice. To contain the effects of such events, one may have to follow the steps listed below:

  • For a man with Gilbert’s syndrome, it affects the body processing of certain medications and cause side effects. As such the person affected by the Gilbert’s syndrome should inform the doctor each time when he approaches for treatment.
  • Go for healthy and balanced diet and avoid a diet with poor calorie. Prefer a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables. Strictly follow the schedule of the diet. Avoid fasting and skipping of meals.
  • Stress management is important. Hence, learn the ways to lower and keep the stress under control. Have regular exercise.
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