What Causes Elevated Bilirubin Levels?


Quick Answer

Hepatitis, cirrhosis, gallstones and pancreatic cancer are some of the causes of elevated bilirubin levels, according to MedlinePlus. Bilirubin is the pigment that gives bile its yellow color.

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Full Answer

Liver disease, Gilbert's disease, gallbladder cancer and biliary stricture also cause elevated bilirubin levels, states MedlinePlus. Gilbert's disease is a common condition in which the liver cannot process bilirubin properly, according to Mayo Clinic. Biliary stricture is an abnormal narrowing of the tube that transports bile from the liver to the small intestine, reports MedlinePlus. This tube is referred to as the common bile duct.

The bilirubin test is used to determine the cause of jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, states MedlinePlus. Doctors also use the bilirubin test to diagnose or rule out problems with the gallbladder and liver. Jaundice sometimes occurs when the body breaks down more red blood cells than usual, a problem associated with transfusion reactions, hemolytic anemia and erythroblastosis fetalis. Erythroblastosis fetalis causes a mother's red blood cells to attack the red blood cells of her developing fetus as if they were foreign bodies, reports Healthline.

Newborn babies typically have high bilirubin levels during their first few days of life. A doctor considers the baby's age, how quickly the baby's bilirubin level has increased and whether the baby was born prematurely to determine if bilirubin levels are too high, states MedlinePlus.

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