Have you got Gilbert Syndrome? It’s very common and affects the liver.
What is Gilbert Syndrome?
Gilbert Syndrome is an inherited condition and affects about one in 10 Caucasian people. It is named after French doctor Augustus Nicholas Gilbert, who first discovered the condition. Most people who are affected by Gilbert Syndrome are unaware because it is essentially harmless. In some people it can lead to jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). I get questions about it frequently so here’s some more information.
What causes Gilbert Syndrome?
Red blood cells contain a chemical called ‘haemoglobin’ which carries oxygen around the body. These cells are constantly being turned over. When the haemoglobin breaks down a chemical called bilirubin is produced as a waste product. Bilirubin is usually carried to the liver where it is processed and passed into the gut through the gallbladder. People with Gilbert Syndrome have a lower level of the enzyme which processes the Bilirubin. This means there is sometimes a build-up of bilirubin in the blood which leads to jaundice.
What are the symptoms of Gilbert Syndrome?
Most people who have Gilbert syndrome are completely well with no symptoms. Doctors often notice a higher level of Bilirubin in their routine blood tests and this is how people most become aware they have the condition and understandably want to know more information.
If the level of bilirubin gets too high, it builds up in the blood and causes jaundice. This is uncommon, but if it occurs it tends to happen in the late teens or early twenties for the first time. The jaundice can be triggered by a serious infection, over-exertion, dehydration, menstruation and certain medications. These medications include an uncommonly used antibiotic called Rifampicin, an uncommon cholesterol lowering drug call Gemfibrozil, especially if used with other cholesterol lowering medication (‘statins’), some drugs used in HIV and bowel cancer treatment. Rarely people may notice mild stomach discomfort, nausea or fatigue.
What is the treatment for Gilbert Syndrome?
No treatment is required. Gilbert syndrome is a mild condition which affects the way bilirubin is processed and rarely causes any problems.
What should I do if get jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)?
There are many causes of jaundice, some of them can be serious. Please see your GP if you experience jaundice.