Gilbert’s Syndrome is an inherited liver condition where the liver works abnormally and does not process bilirubin; a bye-product of the breakdown of red blood cells. In a healthy individual, the liver breaks down old red blood cells into several compounds, including bilirubin, which are then released in the feces and urine. If someone is suffering from Gilbert’s syndrome, the bilirubin gets accumulated in the blood stream, causing a condition called hyperbilirubinemia. This excess bilirubin in the blood can often lead to jaundice. The patient usually doesn’t discover this condition, and it might only crop up in blood tests for the liver which shows this condition as presence of excess bilirubin. However, in Gilbert’s syndrome, the liver is typically otherwise normal and hence may not require full course treatment.
Also known as Constitutional hepatic dysfunction or familial nonhemolytic jaundice — Gilbert’s syndrome usually occurs due to the presence of an abnormal mutated gene, i.e., UGT1A1 gene that is inherited from both the parents. Many people carry one copy of this gene. But in most cases, two abnormal copies of the gene are needed to cause Gilbert's syndrome. In a healthy individual, the effective gene normally controls an enzyme that helps break down the bilirubin in the liver. But in case you inherit an ineffective gene, the blood contains excess amounts of bilirubin because your body doesn't produce enough of the enzyme.
Although this syndrome is present in an individual right from birth but it is usually found out accidentally later in life when some blood tests are conducted. Certain causative factors that increase the risk of Gilbert’s syndrome include:
Gender: Males are more prone to getting diagnosed with this syndrome than female counterpart.
Heredity: The syndrome becomes more prominent in individuals whose both parents carry the abnormal genome.
Gilbert’s syndrome does not always come up with noticeable symptoms. Some people with Gilbert’s syndrome never even know they have it. In people, who have an aggravated level of bilirubin usually show characteristic signs and symptoms, which are:
- Yellowish-tinge of the skin and white parts of your eyes (i.e., jaundice)
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Slight discomfort in the abdominal area
- Illness, such as a cold or the flu
- Fasting or eating a very low-calorie diet
- Strenuous exercise
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you notice any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms or suspect unexplained jaundice, do consult a doctor for further diagnosis. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up, acknowledges the patient's genetic history and conducts the following diagnostics:
- Complete blood count test to rule out other liver anomalies
- Liver Function test
- Genetic testing
- Liver biopsy
- Imaging techniques like CT-scan and Ultrasound
Since the bilirubin levels within the body keeps fluctuating, Gilbert’s syndrome generally does not require any medical treatment and often subsides on its own if the bilirubin levels are not critical. But in case, you start to show off characteristic symptoms, including fatigue or nausea, the doctor might prescribe daily medications to ease the symptoms.
In most cases, Gilbert’s syndrome can be treated right at home with some lifestyle changes and home remedies. These include:
- Get adequate sleep
- Avoid intense exercise
- Stay well-hydrated
- Eat a balanced meal
- Try relaxing techniques to relieve stress
- Limit intake of alcohol