Bilirubin and Bilirubin Blood Test

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

Jaundice Symptoms and Signs

Jaundice is caused by abnormally elevated or high blood levels of bilirubin. Signs and symptoms of jaundice include:

  • The yellow staining of the skin and the whites of the eyes (sclerae)
  • Dark urine
  • Pale-colored stools
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Bilirubin and blood test facts

  • Bilirubin is a reddish yellow pigment made during the normal breakdown of red blood cells.
  • Normal levels vary slightly from lab to lab; they range from about 0.2 – 1.2 mg/dL.
  • Signs and symptoms of high bilirubin levels in adults very with the underlying cause; however, symptoms usually include jaundice and itching.
  • High bilirubin levels in adults usually means that there may be an underlying problem involving the red blood cells, liver, or gallbladder; however, other problems also may be found.
  • Symptoms of high bilirubin levels in newborns are skin and/or scleral jaundice.
  • High bilirubin levels in a newborn means that the neonate is not processing red cell breakdown effectively or an underlying cause is responsible.
  • The treatment for elevated bilirubin in adults depends on the underlying problems. Experts suggest avoiding alcohol.
  • The bilirubin test can chemically determine the total and if needed, the conjugated and unconjugated levels of bilirubin in the blood.
  • The bilirubin test is performed on a small sample of blood from the patient.
  • You prepare for a bilirubin test by refraining from eating for a few hours and avoiding certain compounds that influence bilirubin levels before the test.
  • Risks associated with a bilirubin test are minor.
  • The prognosis for an adult with elevated bilirubin levels is related to the underlying cause, and may range from good to poor.
  • The prognosis for a newborn with elevated bilirubin levels usually is good in the majority of newborns if they rapidly reduce their bilirubin levels.
  • High bilirubin levels can be prevented in neonates by early treatment, and presented in adults by treating the underlying causes and avoiding alcohol or other substances that may damage the liver.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/3/2016

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