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What causes elevated bilirubin?

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Quick Answer

The cause of elevated bilirubin is due to medical conditions such as Gilbert's syndrome, alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver, according to Lab Tests Online. There are different types of bilirubin, so the cause of elevated bilirubin depends on which type is elevated.

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Full Answer

Gilbert's syndrome is a genetic condition that causes periods of elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood, notes Genetics Home Reference. Patients with Gilbert's syndrome experience a buildup of bilirubin in the blood due to mutations of certain genes that provide instructions on how to make bilirubin. However, not all people with these genetic mutations have elevated bilirubin because other factors, such as excess breakdown of red blood cells in the body, are necessary for it to develop.

Alcoholic liver disease occurs when the liver is damaged due to alcohol abuse, according to MedlinePlus. When too much alcohol is consumed, the liver becomes inflamed, which causes scarring and cirrhosis over time. Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease vary depending on how much the disease has progressed and include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, fainting and pale skin.

Cirrhosis occurs when scar tissue replaces healthy tissue on the liver, causing decreased liver function, explains MedlinePlus. The disease is typically caused by chronic liver disease due to alcohol abuse and certain hepatitis infections. Other causes of cirrhosis include bile duct disorders, autoimmune hepatitis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Symptoms of the condition include fatigue, jaundice and pale colored stools.

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