Gilbert Syndrome

Gilbert syndrome is a common, mild liver condition where the liver doesn’t process a substance that breakdown red blood cells called bilirubin. This syndrome is harmless and doesn’t require treatment. The only sign of this syndrome is the skin and the whites of the eyes sometimes have a yellowish color (jaundice).

Gilbert syndrome is caused by an abnormal gene inherited from one or both parent. This syndrome is usually recognized in adolescence, and more common in males. People with this condition have times when the bilirubin is high (elevated) and usually when the body is under stress. Some may experience abdominal discomfort or tiredness. However, approximately 30% of people have no signs or symptoms and is discovered only when routine blood tests show elevated bilirubin levels.

Side effects with certain medications

Because of potential side effects of medications, if a person has Gilbert syndrome they should talk to their doctor before taking any new medications. The low level of the bilirubin-processing enzyme that causes Gilbert syndrome may increase side effects with certain medications. A cancer chemotherapy drug (Camptosar) can reach toxic levels causing severe diarrhea. Some protease inhibitors used to treat HIV can cause elevated levels of bilirubin.

Tests and Diagnosis

Often this syndrome is discovered by accident when having a routine blood test or when a yellowish color (jaundice) appears. Occasionally genetic testing of UGT1A1 mutation is needed to make the diagnosis.


Gilbert syndrome doesn’t require treatment. The bilirubin levels in the blood may go up or down over time and jaundice will appear. This usually goes away on it’s own with no bad effects.

Stress can trigger episodes of higher bilirubin levels, leading to jaundice. Finding ways to manage stress can help prevent episodes. Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, eating on a regular schedule, and avoiding fasting or skipping meals also helps.