What is Gilbert's Syndrome?
Gilbert's syndrome is an inherited condition that causes jaundice, a yellow coloring of the skin and eyes. It is generally harmless and there are no long-term complications. Some persons with Gilbert's may complain of fatigue or abdominal pain, but most persons are just concerned because they suddenly look yellow.
Gilbert's syndrome is caused by a defect in the chemical pathway that allows the body to breakdown bilirubin. Usually persons with this condition develop mild jaundice with no other symptoms shortly after puberty. Sometimes the jaundice is more noticeable after a mild illness like a viral infection. Some researchers have suggested that this condition first shows up as early as infancy and explains why some infants have prolonged but uncomplicated cases of "physiologic jaundice." Certain ethnic groups seem to have a higher incidence of Gilbert's than others: Japanese, Native Alaskan Inuits, and Scots. Overall, it is estimated that two to five percent of the general population has Gilbert's.
How is it diagnosed?
Although there is a blood test that can measure the amount of the defective enzyme, the test is not widely available. Usually if a patient is jaundiced, the doctor will do some simple blood tests to make sure that the cause is not a serious one like viral hepatitis or some sort of blockage in the liver. If the repeated blood tests show mildly elevated levels of unconjugated bilirubin, then the cause is most likely Gilbert's syndrome.
What are the treatments?
Nothing generally needs to be done. If the doctor is concerned that the amount of bilirubin is getting too high, she can prescribed Phenobarbital. This is seldom needed.
Gilberts Syndrome Resource List:
- Gilberts Syndrome - an educational page from the American Liver Foundation.
- Gilberts Web: a medical web site developed dealing primarily with the condition know as Gilbert's Syndrome. Our aim is to act as a resource to people with GS, and as an educational site to those without. To achieve this aim we have reports from doctors, an interactive message board and personal comments and advice from our co-authors. It is now also possible to get in touch with other people with GS using our e-mail address exchange page.