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Gilbert's disease

Definition

Gilbert's disease is a common disorder passed down through families. It affects the way bilirubin is processed by the liver, and causes jaundice.

Alternative Names

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

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Gilbert's disease affects up to 10% of people in some Caucasian populations.

Symptoms

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

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

Signs and tests

An indirect bilirubin blood test shows changes that occur with Gilbert's disease.

A genetic problem is associated with Gilbert's disease, but genetic testing is not needed.

Treatment

No treatment is necessary for Gilbert's disease.

Expectations (prognosis)

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

Complications

There are no known complications.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have jaundice or persistent abdominal pain.

Prevention

There is no proven prevention.

References

Berk PD, Korenblat KM. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver test results. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 150.

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.


Review Date: 5/22/2011
Reviewed 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 David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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