What are some reasons for high bilirubin levels?


Quick Answer

High bilirubin levels indicate problems with the gall bladder, liver or bile ducts, according to Healthline. A person can also have high bilirubin levels due to problems in his blood. Infants may have high bilirubin levels after birth. This could be harmless or could indicate serious problems such as sickle cell anemia, infections and erythroblastosis fetalis.

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Full Answer

Newborns have higher bilirubin levels due to the stress of birth, according to Healthline. They may have physiological jaundice up to four days after birth because the liver is yet to start functioning properly. Some infants have high bilirubin during the first week because they are not nursing properly. Infants may also have breast milk jaundice because they cannot properly process some of the substances in breast milk.

However, high bilirubin levels in children may indicate a more serious condition such as bleeding in the scalp after a difficult delivery, explains Healthline. Infants who have a different blood type from their mother may have high bilirubin levels due to erythroblastosis fetalis. Bilirubin is also high in infants who were born prematurely, as the amount of red blood cells is high compared to their small size.

Liver problems that may cause high bilirubin levels include cirrhosis, Gilbert's disease and hepatitis, according to MedlinePlus. Bile duct or gall bladder problems that cause high bilirubin levels include gallstones, biliary stricture and cancer of the gallbladder or pancreas. Abnormally high levels may also indicate a reaction to transfusion or faster-than-normal breakdown of red blood cells due to hemolytic anemia.

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