A high bilirubin count results from inherited and acquired problems in the liver, gallbladder or bile ducts. These include liver disorders like hepatitis, cirrhosis and Gilbert syndrome. Gallbladder infections such as cancer, cholecystitis, gallstones and biliary duct problems like biliary stricture and cirrhosis and hemolytic anaemia also elevate bilirubin, states Healthline.
The breaking-down of old blood cells in the liver produces bilirubin. It is a yellow pigment found in blood, bile and stool. It gives feces its characteristic color. Bilirubin circulates in the blood in two forms: indirect or unconjugated and direct or conjugated. The form of bilirubin tested directly in the blood is total or conjugated, notes Mayo Clinic.
High bilirubin levels lead to physical symptoms such as yellow color to the eyes and skin, dark colored urine, fatigue, nausea or vomiting. Hemolytic anaemia refers to the destruction of red blood cells in the blood. Additional causes of high levels of bilirubin include drug toxicity from certain medications: antibiotics, some birth control pills, diazepam (Valium), flurazepam, indomethacin, and phenytoin (Dilantin), as detailed by WebMD.
Newborn babies may have high bilirubin, a condition called neonatal jaundice. Infants possess an immature liver and a large number of red blood cells that are readily broken down to form bilirubin. Blood group incompatibility between mother and newborn can also cause destruction of the baby’s red blood cells, states Patient.co.uk.