Gilbert’s syndrome renders the liver unable to properly process bilirubin, a yellow by-product created when red blood cells break down. Because it cannot be processed, the bilirubin builds up in the bloodstream, and the skin and eyes become yellow-tinted. Gilbert’s syndrome and the resulting episodes of jaundice are mostly harmless, but diagnosis and treatment, if needed, are still important.

Causes of Gilbert’s syndrome

Gilbert’s syndrome is a hereditary genetic disorder—meaning that if you have it, you inherited it from one or both of your parents. This genetic disorder causes the liver not to function properly, so it has problems removing bilirubin from the blood. The bilirubin in the bloodstream isn’t processed as quickly as it is in other people, so it builds up, giving the skin and eyes a yellow color. Gilbert’s syndrome is not life-threatening, and it is not related to other, more serious medical conditions like Hepatitis C.



Symptoms of Gilbert’s Syndrome

People with Gilbert’s syndrome experience short episodes of jaundice. They may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pale stools
  • Feeling sick
  • Brain fog

Some people with Gilbert’s syndrome don’t experience any symptoms at all, or they experience very mild symptoms for a brief period.




Certain conditions can trigger an episode of jaundice. These conditions may include:

  • Dehydration
  • Menstruation
  • Illness, such as the cold or flu
  • Fasting
  • Eating a very low-calorie diet
  • Stress
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Surgery
  • Sleep deprivation




Having Gilbert’s syndrome may increase incidence and severity of side effects from certain medications including specific chemotherapy drugs and medications used in the treatment of HIV. If you have Gilbert’s syndrome, let your doctor know before starting any new medications.




If you have jaundice, make an appointment with your doctor. Various tests will be done to determine the cause. Diagnosis of Gilbert’s syndrome is made through blood tests and liver function tests. Usually, these two types of tests are enough for a Gilbert’s syndrome diagnosis, although genetic testing can confirm it.



Treatment and living with Gilbert’s syndrome

Since Gilbert’s syndrome is a genetic disorder, it is encoded in your genes, and so there is no treatment. Levels of bilirubin in the blood may fluctuate, and you may even be able to identify certain triggers that bring on jaundice episodes. Avoiding these triggers can help to manage your condition. Make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as dehydration is one of the triggers. Also, eat healthy foods and avoid low-calorie diets and fasts. Finding ways to manage stress healthily can also reduce the incidence of jaundice episodes. Talk to your doctor about other ways to manage your condition.  



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