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High bilirubin


Bilirubin is a yellow substance that is part of the composition of bile, the fluid secreted by the liver so that the body processes fats correctly. Bilirubin is produced in the spleen and is the result of the degeneration of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Once the spleen destroys blood cells and creates bilirubin, this substance travels to the liver and is subsequently stored in the gallbladder.

When bilirubin accumulates in the blood, it is suspected that something is wrong with the liver, pancreas or gallbladder, for this reason there are many conditions associated with high bilirubin . Do you want to know the causes of this condition? Keep reading this eHealth article and discover what its symptoms and treatment are.

Types of bilirubin

  • Direct bilirubin : it cannot be dissolved in water until it reaches the liver. It can be expelled through excretions.
  • Indirect bilirubin : it is produced in the liver from direct bilirubin to travel to the gallbladder and form bile.
  • Total bilirubin : is the sum of direct bilirubin and indirect bilirubin.

Causes of high bilirubin

High direct bilirubin

When direct bilirubin is elevated in the blood, it is mainly due to problems with liver function , such as:

  • Hepatitis : is the inflammation of the liver caused by a virus or excessive consumption of alcohol and certain medications. Hepatitis can be mild or acute, the latter, if not treated correctly, can lead toliver cirrhosis . Sometimes this disease goes away on its own, but there are cases in which hepatitis persists throughout life.
  • Liver cirrhosis : It is the most chronic phase of liver disease and causes scarring of the liver. Cirrhosis can be caused by long-term illnesses such as alcoholism , hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
  • Bile duct obstruction : When the pathways through which bile travels become blocked, a concentration of bile and bilirubin is produced in the liver that causes hyperbilirubinemia. The obstruction of the bile ducts can be caused by stones in the gallbladder or tumors in the pancreas. Abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin, fever , itching, and pale stools are some of the symptoms of this condition.
  • Dubin Johnson syndrome : It is a rare inherited disease. This disease prevents the correct transport of bilirubin from the liver to the gallbladder. This condition does not represent any risk to the life of the person and currently there is no specific treatment, so the way to approach the disease will depend on the case of each person.

High indirect bilirubin

  • Gilbert’s syndrome : is an inherited disorder that affects the way the liver processes bilirubin, allowing its accumulation in the blood to cause jaundice , a condition characterized by yellowing of the eyes and skin. There is no treatment to treat this disease and throughout a person’s life jaundice can come and go.
  • Hemolytic anemia : anemia occurs when there is a deficiency of healthy red blood cells, blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen. In normal cases, red blood cells last for 120 days in the body, but when a person suffers from hemolytic anemia, these cells are destroyed much earlier. This type of anemia is caused by bone marrow malfunction due to an autoimmune disorder, genetic abnormalities, infections, exposure to certain chemicals, or incompatible donor blood transfusion.

Symptoms of high bilirubin

Although the symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia can vary depending on its cause, excess bilirubin in the blood most of the time manifests as follows:

  • The most characteristic symptom of high bilirubin is jaundice: yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
  • Bilirubin is responsible for the yellowish color of the stool, for this reason when there is excess of this substance in the blood, the stool is usually pale, since the chemical is not being discharged from the body.
  • People with hyperbilirubinemia usually have very dark urine.
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Bilirubin blood test

To diagnose hyperbilirubinemia, it is necessary to take a blood sample to measure the level of bilirubin in the fluid. Bilirubin can also be measured through a urine test.

Normal levels of bilirubin in the blood are :

  • Direct bilirubin: 0 – 0.3 mg / dL.
  • Indirect bilirubin: 0.2 – 1.2 mg / dL.
  • Total bilirubin: 0.1 – 1.2 mg / dL.

Treatment of high bilirubin

Once the person is diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia, a series of studies must be performed to determine the health of the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and bone marrow . Treatment of high bilirubin will focus primarily on addressing the cause of this condition, for this reason there is no punic way to treat hyperbilirubinemia.

However, when a person has high bilirubin, they must pay great care to their liver in order to prevent the work of said organ from being even more forced and helping the body to purify all those toxins that are accumulating in the body due to dysfunction liver. Therefore, it is important to take into account the following recommendations to take care of the liver:

  • Hydration : drinking plenty of water throughout the day is vital to help the body eliminate accumulated toxins. The ideal is to drink at least 3 liters of water a day. Eating soup or drinking herbal teas are other ways to keep the body hydrated.
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages : alcohol is one of the substances that most complicates the proper functioning of the liver, as it contains many toxins and the organ must work harder than normal to process and dispose of it. In addition, conditions such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, both associated with high bilirubin, worsen considerably when alcohol consumption is not stopped.
  • Balanced diet: maintaining a balanced diet low in fat is essential to take care of the health of the liver. Processed and ultra-processed foods and fats are much more difficult to digest. In addition, we must remember that when there is an accumulation of bilirubin in the blood, the body cannot digest fats efficiently, so it is best to pause its consumption.
  • Consume vegetables and fiber : vegetables, especially green leafy ones such as watercress or spinach, are of great help to absorb excess fat in the body. Good fiber, such as oatmeal, does the same job and also promotes detoxification of the body and stimulates intestinal transit. Incorporating both foods into your diet will help promote liver health.
  • Exercise : yes, exercising is a great help for almost every problem in the body. In this case, exercise will not lower bilirubin, but it will help decrease excess fat in the body.

High bilirubin in newborns

Many babies born prematurely become jaundiced within a few days after delivery. This is because your liver has not fully developed and is not optimal for correctly processing bilirubin. In most cases, this condition usually resolves on its own as the child grows and the liver evolves. However, it is very common for doctors to ask parents to expose the newborn to sunlight so that the vitamin D received through the sun’s rays destroys the bilirubin. In very serious cases in which the jaundice does not disappear, the pediatrician may prescribe phototherapy or blood transfusion.


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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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