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Gilbert's disease

Gilbert's disease is a common disorder passed down through families. It affects the way bilirubin is processed by the liver, and causes the skin to take on a yellow color (jaundice).

Causes

Gilbert's disease affects up 1 in 10 people in some Caucasian groups.

Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (mild jaundice)

In people with Gilbert's syndrome, jaundice most often appears during times of exertion, stress, and infection, or when they do not eat.

Exams and Tests

A blood test for bilirubin shows changes that occur with Gilbert's disease. The total bilirubin level is mildly elevated, with most being unconjugated bilirubin. Usually the total level is less than 2 mg/dL, and the conjugated bilirubin level is normal.

Gilbert's disease is linked to a genetic problem, but genetic testing is not needed.

Treatment

No treatment is necessary for Gilbert's disease.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Jaundice may come and go throughout life. It is more likely to appear during illnesses such as colds. It does not cause health problems, but it can confuse the results of tests for jaundice.

Possible Complications

There are no known complications.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have jaundice or pain in the abdomen that does not go away.

Prevention

There is no proven prevention.

Alternative Names

Icterus intermittens juvenilis; Low-grade chronic hyperbilirubinemia; Familial non-hemolytic-non-obstructive jaundice; Constitutional liver dysfunction; Unconjugated benign bilirubinemia

References

Berk PD, Korenblat KM. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver test results In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 149.

Lidofsky SD. Jaundice. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 20.

Update Date: 5/13/2013

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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