What is Bilirubin?

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Bilirubin refers to yellow-brownish blood that is found in bile. To measure the amount of bilirubin, a bilirubin test is conducted on a blood sample. Bilirubin is generated from broken down red blood cells in the liver. It is excreted from the body via stool and is responsible to normalizing the color of stool. It is circulated in the blood in two main forms. The first form is unconjugated or indirect bilirubin. In this form, bilirubin is insoluble in water and is transported through the blood to the liver where it is converted into soluble state. The second form is the conjugated or direct bilirubin. In this state, bilirubin is soluble in water and generated in the liver from the unconjugated bilirubin. The total amount of bilirubin and conjugated bilirubin can be checked in the blood directly while levels of unconjugated bilirubin are gotten from the total and direct bilirubin amounts.

Effects of High Bilirubin Amounts

High levels of bilirubin can cause the white part of eyes and skin has a yellowish color, a condition known as jaundice. Jaundice can also be a sign of liver ailments such as hepatitis, a blood condition called hemolytic anemia, or blockage of bile ducts hindering passage of bile to small intestines. In new born babies, jaundice does not lead to serious problems though a lot of bilirubin in infants, a condition called hyperbilirubinemia, can lead to brain damage and other fatal problems. In some cases, infants with jaundice condition may require medical treatment to bring down the levels of bilirubin. Bilirubin tests are usually conducted to check the functionality of the liver and check for symptoms of liver ailments such as cirrhosis and hepatitis as well as effects of drugs that can potentially cause liver damage. Tests are also conducted to check for blockage of bile ducts as a result of pancreatic tumors or gallstones. Ailments that lead to rising amounts of damaged red blood cells like hemolytic anemia are also diagnosed through bilirubin tests.

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