Bilirubin is a yellowish substance found in your blood. This substance is formed after the red blood cells break down, then pass through your liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract before being excreted. This is a substance that gives urine or stool a yellowish color.
Although bilirubin is a substance produced during the body’s normal process of breaking down red blood cells — having high levels of bilirubin may harm your body. Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition when you have too much bilirubin in your blood.
Typically, normal bilirubin levels for adults are around 0.3 to 1.2 mg / dL. Meanwhile, for children under the age of 18, it is around 1 mg / dL. Bilirubin levels are considered too much when they are above 1.2 mg / dL. If you experience this condition, it is very important to schedule follow-up visits to get the right treatment.
Many babies are born with too much bilirubin. This causes a condition called jaundice. The most common symptoms of jaundice in infants are yellow skin and eyes. Jaundice in babies may occur since the liver has not fully functioned to process bilirubin.
Symptoms of High Bilirubin Levels
Symptoms of high bilirubin levels may vary from person to person — depending on the underlying cause. You may have high levels of bilirubin, but there are no visible symptoms at all. The following are some common symptoms of many diseases that cause high levels of bilirubin in your body:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Easy tiring
- Chest pain
- Dark-colored urine.
- Dizziness and headaches.
- Abdominal pain
Causes of High Bilirubin Levels
Having high levels of bilirubin can be a sign of certain conditions. You should check yourself in the hospital or service provider. Your doctor will reckon your symptoms according to the results of the bilirubin test. High bilirubin levels can be caused by:
- Gallstones form when substances such as cholesterol or bilirubin harden in the gallbladder.
- Gilbert’s syndrome is a genetic disease in which the liver is unable to properly process bilirubin, which causes it to accumulate in the bloodstream
- Hepatitis occurs when the liver becomes inflamed due to a viral infection. When inflamed, the liver is unable to process bilirubin easily which causes a buildup in the blood.
- Impaired liver function is a condition that affects your liver — which can cause bilirubin to build up in your blood. The condition develops as the liver loses its ability to remove and process bilirubin from the bloodstream.
Purposes of Bilirubin Test
To determine the bilirubin levels in your body, you can get a bilirubin test to identify if you have jaundice, anemia, and impaired liver function.
In children and adults, doctors will use the bilirubin test to diagnose and monitor the presence of liver and bile duct diseases, including hepatitis and gallstones. It is also very helpful in determining if you have sickle cell anemia in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they are produced.
High bilirubin levels are common in newborns. Your doctor will consider the type of treatment required based on the baby’s age and the test results.
The bilirubin test is usually performed to check your liver health. Bilirubin test may also be performed to:
- Detect any medicine poisoning.
- Detect increased red blood cell damage.
- Identify a blockage in the bile duct.
- Detect or monitor liver diseases such as hepatitis.
- Identify jaundice that causes whites of your eyes to turn yellow
Cost Estimation for Bilirubin Test
There are several types of bilirubin tests available, such as total bilirubin, direct bilirubin, and indirect bilirubin. In general, health care providers will offer health packages that cover all types of bilirubin tests.
For more details regarding the cost for a bilirubin test at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
In a bilirubin test, you are advised not to eat or drink anything other than mineral water for at least 4 hours before the test. You may drink water in normal amounts before going to the laboratory or the bilirubin test provider.
Your doctor may ask you to stop taking certain medications prior to the test. Medicines that can affect bilirubin levels include antibiotics such as Penicillin G Procaine, phenobarbital, and theophylline. There are many other medicines that can affect your bilirubin levels. Talk with your doctor before getting the test to see if you need to stop or continue taking your medication
During Bilirubin Test
During the test, your blood sample will be drawn by inserting a small needle into your arm. Then, the blood will be put in a tube. Then, the blood will be sent to the lab to be tested
Before the test, make sure you tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking so they do not affect your test results.
After the test, you get back to your usual activities. Your healthcare provider will usually provide you with information on when you should take the test results. Your test results will usually come out within one working day.
If the test results show high bilirubin levels, your doctor will advise you to take a series of other tests to identify the cause.
Additionally, your doctor will likely ask you to have regular bilirubin tests. This is done to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
Understanding Your Bilirubin Test Result
Your results will be shown based on the type of test you had before — total bilirubin, direct bilirubin, or indirect bilirubin.
- Indirect bilirubin forms when there is damage to red blood cells that move from the blood to the liver.
- Direct bilirubin is found in the organ that undergoes chemical changes, then moves to the intestine before being excreted through urine or feces.
The test results show normal bilirubin levels for adults, which are around 0.3 to 1.2 mg / dL. Meanwhile, for children under the age of 18, it is around 1 mg / dL. There is an abnormal condition when the bilirubin level is above 1.2 mg / dL. These results may vary slightly — due to factors such as certain foods, medicines, or strenuous exercise.
Usually, lower than normal bilirubin levels are not a problem. However, it is a different case if you have increased levels that indicate liver damage or other types of disease. Higher bilirubin than normal may indicate that your liver has lost its function to clean and filter bilirubin properly.
Side Effects of Bilirubin Test
During the bilirubin test, your blood will be collected in a tube. You may feel a slight pinching-like pain in your arm. After the needle is removed, you may feel a throbbing sensation.
You will have to apply pressure to the puncture site. Then, the puncture site will be covered with a bandage. You should apply the pressure for at least 10-20 minutes.
Although the bilirubin test is relatively fast, there are some very rare risks that may arise if you do this test, such as:
- Headache or fainting
- Hematoma — a bruise at the injection site.
- Infection — which can be prevented by cleaning the skin before inserting the needle.
- Excessive bleeding or bleeding for a long period of time after taking the test. Immediately contact your doctor or healthcare provider for appropriate treatment