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Jaundice is the main sign of high bilirubin levels. Other general signs of many of the illnesses that cause high bilirubin can include: abdominal pain or swelling; chills; fever; chest pain; weakness
A high level of bilirubin in the blood is known as hyperbilirubinemia. High bilirubin levels can cause jaundice. Jaundice makes the skin and the whites of the eyes appear yellow, due to the brown and yellow bilirubin in the blood. There are several reasons for a rise in bilirubin levels outside the newborn period.
High bilirubin levels in adults usually means that there may be an underlying problem involving the red blood cells, liver, or gallbladder; however, other problems also may be found. Symptoms of high bilirubin levels in newborns are skin and/or scleral jaundice.
The normal levels for bilirubin test range from 0.1 to 1 milligram per deciliter of total bilirubin. Total bilirubin is made up of direct and indirect form of the substance. The normal results of the test may also be indicated by readings that range from 0 to 0.3 milligrams per deciliter of direct bilirubin.
The most common symptom of high bilirubin levels is jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Diagnosis and Tests. A bilirubin test measures the amount of bilirubin found in a small sample of blood. Because bilirubin exists in the blood in two forms, two measurements are taken:
High blood bilirubin levels can cause damage to the auditory system as well as the brainstem . Excessive bilirubin levels are associated with deafness in infants [ 10 ]. Only bilirubin levels ≥10 mg/dL above a threshold were associated with a statistically significant increased risk of Sensorineural Hearing Loss [ 10 ].
Jaundice, also known as icterus, is a yellowish or greenish pigmentation of the skin and whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels. It is commonly associated with itchiness. The feces may be pale and the urine dark. Jaundice in babies occurs in over half in the first week following birth and in most is not a problem. If bilirubin levels in babies are very high for too long, a type of brain damage, known as kernicterus, may occur. Causes of jaundice vary from non-serious to potentially fatal. Levels of bilirubin in blood are normally below 1.0 mg/dL (17 µmol/L) and levels over 2–3 mg/dL (34-51 µmol/L) typically results in jaundice. High bilirubin is divided into two types: unconjugated (indirect) and conjugated (direct). Conjugated bilirubin can be confirmed by finding bilirubin in the urine. Other conditions that can cause yellowish skin but are not jaundice include carotenemia from eating large amounts of certain foods and medications like rifampin. High unconjugated bilirubin may be due to excess red blood cell breakdown, large bruises, genetic conditions such as Gilbert's syndrome, not eating for a prolonged period of time, newborn jaundice, or thyroid problems. High conjugated bilirubin may be due to liver diseases such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, infections, medications, or blockage of the bile duct. In the developed world, the cause is more often blockage of the bile duct or medications while in the developing world, it is more often infections such as viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis, or malaria. Blockage of the bile duct may occur due to gallstones, cancer, or pancreatitis. Medical imaging such as ultrasound is useful for detecting bile duct blockage. Treatment of jaundice is typically determined by the underlying cause. If a bile duct blockage is present, surgery is typically required; otherwise, management is medical. Medical management may involve treating infectious causes and stopping medication that could be contributing. Among newborns, depending on age and prematurity, a bilirubin greater than 4–21 mg/dL (68-360 µmol/L) may be treated with phototherapy or exchanged transfusion. The itchiness may be helped by draining the gallbladder or ursodeoxycholic acid. The word jaundice is from the French jaunisse, meaning "yellow disease".
Neonatal jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the white part of the eyes and skin in a newborn baby due to high bilirubin levels. Other symptoms may include excess sleepiness or poor feeding. Complications may include seizures, cerebral palsy, or kernicterus. In many cases there is no specific underlying disorder (physiologic). In other cases it results from red blood cell breakdown, liver disease, infection, hypothyroidism, or metabolic disorders (pathologic). A bilirubin level more than 34 μmol/l (2 mg/dL) may be visible. Concerns, in otherwise healthy babies, occur when levels are greater than 308 μmol/L (18 mg/dL), jaundice is noticed in the first day of life, there is a rapid rise in levels, jaundice lasts more than two weeks, or the baby appears unwell. In those with concerning findings further investigations to determine the underlying cause are recommended. The need for treatment depends on bilirubin levels, the age of the child, and the underlying cause. Treatments may include more frequent feeding, phototherapy, or exchange transfusions. In those who are born early more aggressive treatment tends to be required. Physiologic jaundice generally lasts less than seven days. The condition affects over half of babies in the first week of life. Of babies that are born early about 80% are affected.
Gilbert's syndrome (GS) is a mild liver disorder in which the liver does not properly process bilirubin. Many people never have symptoms. Occasionally a slight yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes may occur. Other possible symptoms include feeling tired, weakness, and abdominal pain. Gilbert's syndrome is due to a mutation in the UGT1A1 gene which results in decreased activity of the bilirubin uridine diphosphate glucuronosyltransferase enzyme. It is typically inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern and occasionally in an autosomal dominant pattern depending on the type of mutation. Episodes of jaundice may be triggered by stress such as exercise, menstruation, or not eating. Diagnosis is based on higher levels of unconjugated bilirubin in the blood without either signs of other liver problems or red blood cell breakdown. Typically no treatment is needed. If jaundice is significant phenobarbital may be used. Gilbert's syndrome affects about 5% of people in the United States. Males are more often diagnosed than females. It is often not noticed until late childhood to early adulthood. The condition was first described in 1901 by Augustin Nicolas Gilbert.