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The Significance of Bilirubin

September 12, 2018

It’s possible that you haven’t heard about bilirubin, or maybe you have heard about it, but you either don’t know what it really is, or are not aware of its significance in our body. Today, Earth’s Wisdom wants to give you very important information about bilirubin that may change your life.

What is Bilirubin?

Well, bilirubin is the name of a yellowish pigment in your body. When hemoglobin in red blood cells is broken down, bilirubin is produced. Before being excreted from the body, it passes through gallbladder, bile ducts and liver.

A bilirubin test is prescribed by your doctor as a part of a liver panel or regular comprehensive metabolic panel. A liver panel may consist of total protein tests and liver function tests. A bilirubin test is also prescribed when you have some particular symptoms.

Normal bilirubin levels range from 0.3 to 1.2 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter).

Types of Bilirubin

If you have to do bilirubin tests and you go through the results, you’ll notice that there are various types of bilirubin, such as:

Conjugated (Direct) Bilirubin: This type of bilirubin is formed when bilirubin gets attached (conjugated) to glucuronic acid in the liver before it gets excreted. Your urine looks yellow because of this type of bilirubin.

Unconjugated (Indirect) Bilirubin: When hemoglobin from your red blood cells breaks down and gets bound to a protein named albumin in blood and then is sent to liver, it’s called unconjugated bilirubin.

Total Bilirubin: Total bilirubin means all the bilirubin in your blood.

If any of the above types is outside of the normal range, your doctor might tell you that your bilirubin is low.

Symptoms of Low Bilirubin

Usually no symptoms are seen when your bilirubin levels are low. Low bilirubin levels are not even noticed until the doctor prescribes a blood test.

If your bilirubin level is low and any unusual symptoms are noticed, you should visit your doctor. You may need treatment for an unrelated condition.

Causes of Low Bilirubin

Low bilirubin levels are not caused by any health conditions. However, consumption of certain substances can led to temporarily low bilirubin levels.

These substances include:

  • Barbiturates
  • Caffeine
  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) known as salicylates, like aspririn

If you consume any of these a few hours before your blood test, your test results show low bilirubin levels. Hence you shouldn’t consume them for minimum eight hours prior to your blood test. Your doctor may even suggest you not to consume other substances and give you other instructions so as to get accurate test results.

Potential Risk Factors

No obvious connection has been found between any medical condition and low bilirubin levels. However, some studies suggest that bilirubin works as an antioxidant, which protects tissues across your body from getting damaged by substances that can break down cells.

On the basis of these potential antioxidant properties of bilirubin, it’s believed that not having sufficient bilirubin can leave some organs susceptible to damage.

This damage could possibly result in an array of conditions. For example:

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary arteries that bring fresh blood and oxygen to heart can be damaged in coronary artery disease. A study put forth a theory that higher bilirubin may protect heart from coronary artery disease to some extent. But this wasn’t confirmed, neither was it found that low bilirubin increased the risk of CAD.

Brain Lesions

The risk of having deep white matter lesions in brain could be increased due to low bilirubin levels according to a study. These lesions are connected to many conditions including heart disease and dementia.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is responsible for chronic inflammation that can harm your digestive tract. As suggested by a study, lower bilirubin may make it difficult for the body to eliminate reactive oxygen species which are connected to inflammation linked to ulcerative colitis. However, low bilirubin levels haven’t been found to increase the risk of having ulcerative colitis.

While increased bilirubin levels may signify many health conditions, low bilirubin levels typically are nothing to worry about. Sometimes, it could even be a medication’s side effect or having excessive coffee before your blood test. If low bilirubin is seen in your test, your doctor may look for any other symptoms in you and may suggest another test after some time.

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