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Gilbert Syndrome

  • Michelle Badash, MS
Publication Type:


Gilbert Syndrome



Gilbert syndrome is a problem of the liver. It makes it hard for the liver to break down a toxin called bilirubin. Bilirubin that is not changed to a nontoxic version by the liver can build up in the blood. Gilbert syndrome is a mild health issue for most people.

The Liver.

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Gilbert syndrome is caused by a problem with a specific gene. The gene is passed from 1 or both parents.

Bilirubin is made when old blood cells break down. In its original form it is toxic. The liver can turn toxic bilirubin into a nontoxic form that can then leave the body. The gene problem makes it hard for the liver to change the toxin to a nontoxic form. As a result, the toxic version can build up in the blood. Very high levels of the toxic bilirubin can cause symptoms.

Risk Factors

Gilbert syndrome is more common in males, and in those with a family history of it.


Often, there are no symptoms of Gilbert syndrome. However, people who do have symptoms may have:

  • Yellowing of the skin—known as jaundice
  • Jaundice of the whites of the eyes
  • Belly pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Darker urine (pee)


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests will show if there is an abnormal level of bilirubin. Because the levels can vary, more than 1 test may be needed over a period of time. Blood tests will also show the overall health of liver. If all other liver tests are normal except for bilirubin, then Gilbert syndrome may be suspected.


No treatment is needed for Gilbert syndrome. Symptoms often come and go. They may get worse after:

  • Skipping meals or fasting
  • Getting dehydrated
  • Working out intensely
  • Having a lot of vomiting
  • Stress or trauma


Gilbert syndrome cannot be prevented. Genetic testing can help families with Gilbert syndrome learn the odds of passing it to a child.





  • Gilbert syndrome. American Liver Foundation website. Available at: https://www.liverfoundation.org/liver-diseases/rare-disease/gilbert-syndrome.
  • Gilbert syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/condition/gilbert-syndrome.
  • Gilbert syndrome. National Organization for Rare Disorders website. Available at: https://www.rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/gilbert-syndrome.
  • Kamal, S., Abdelhakam, S., et al. The frequency, clinical course, and health related quality of life in adults with Gilbert's syndrome: a longitudinal study. BMC Gastroenterology, 2019; 19: 22.


  • Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.