Bilirubin

Overview:

Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment found in bile, a fluid made by the liver. A small amount of older red blood cells are replaced by new blood cells every day. Bilirubin is left after these older blood cells are removed. The liver helps break down bilirubin so that it can be removed from the body in the stool.

Why you should keep track of your bilirubin level

Large amounts of bilirubin in the blood can lead to jaundice. Jaundice is a yellow color in the skin, mucus membranes, or eye, and it is the most common reason to check your bilirubin levels. A bilirubin test will also be done if your doctor thinks you may have liver or gallbladder problems.

What you should know about jaundice

A change in skin color is usually an indication of liver damage and is due to significant disruption in the metabolic functions of the liver. The liver is responsible for breaking down the red blood cells into bilirubin. This pigment is then disposed out of the body through faeces.

When the liver is unable to excrete, the bilirubin accumulates in the body and settles under the skin and eyes. This gives the skin a pale color, a feature particularly characteristic of jaundice. Liver problems that also cause jaundice or high bilirubin levels may include: cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), hepatitis, liver disease or Gilbert's disease.

How to prevent liver damage

  • Controlled alcohol intake. Individuals over the age of 65 years should limit their intake of alcoholic beverages to one drink per day. Others should also avoid excessive consumption of alcohol.
  • Hygiene issues. Maintaining an unhygienic lifestyle increase the chances of liver diseases. Care must be exercised when getting intravenous injections and consuming foods from unhealthy sources.
  • Vaccinations. Some liver diseases, such as hepatitis, can be prevented through vaccinations.
  • Medication regimens. Overuse of drugs can lead to liver damage. Use of NSAIDS for longer time and some highly potent drugs can also induce irreversible liver damage.
  • Using aerosol sprays. When using insecticides or pesticides, proper directions must be followed to ensure that the toxins do not enter the biological system and cause organ damage.
  • Weight maintenance. Obesity can lead to excessive fat accumulation in liver that might disrupt liver function and its ability to metabolize fats.