What causes elevated bilirubin in adults?

July 11, 2011

Before we take a look at the causes of elevated bilirubin in adults, it is necessary to understand what exactly bilirubin is. Bilirubin is a yellow colored pigment that the liver produces when red blood cells are broken down and recycled. It is a byproduct that occurs after the breakdown of hemoglobin. The red blood cells in the body are constantly building and breaking down and as a result many by products are released as waste.

Bilirubin is one such byproduct. The liver processes bilirubin into bile and it is released through the body through the digestive system. The levels of bilirubin in the body are normally low. Therefore, what causes elevated bilirubin in adults? There are several reasons as to why there could be elevated bilirubin in adults. Read on if you wish to find out what causes elevated bilirubin in adults. Keep in mind that any disorder that destroys a large number of liver cells or disrupts the normal functioning of the liver cells can cause elevated bilirubin levels.

Some of the causes of elevated bilirubin in adults are as follows:-

  • Tumors affecting the gall bladder, liver or bile ducts could be responsible for elevated levels.
  • An allergic reaction to the blood received during a transfusion can also cause the levels of bilirubin to rise in adults.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver is another reason for elevated bilirubin levels.
  • Acute hepatitis caused by Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B is another reason.
  • Hemolysis - red blood cell destruction.
  • Liver failure or any liver disease that worsens over a period of time.
  • Choledocholithiasis or presence of gall stones in the bile duct
  • A very large obstruction in the bile duct.
  • Blood related disorders like sickle cell anemia can cause rapid destruction of the red blood cells and thus cause elevated levels.
  • Chronic liver disease such as chronic hepatitis C, hemochromatosis, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, autoimmune hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis also cause elevated bilirubin levels.
  • Dubin-Johnson syndrome, Gilbert's syndrome, Rotor's syndrome and other inherited disorders of bilirubin metabolism cause the levels to rise as well.
  • Crigler Najjar syndrome or another rarely found disorder which affects the metabolism of bilirubin.
  • Antibiotics and some medicines like phenytoin, indomethacin, flurazepam, diazepam and some kinds of birth control pills can also give rise to elevated levels.
  • Pancreatic cancer.

Submitted by N on July 11, 2011 at 11:44

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