What is the bilirubin test?
The bilirubin test is a way to find out how much bilirubin is in the blood. Bilirubin is a substance that is made each day as red blood cells break down. Normally the liver removes bilirubin from the blood. The bilirubin moves through the liver and then into the digestive system in a fluid called bile.
Why is this test done?
A high level of bilirubin can be caused by problems with the liver, the digestive system, or red blood cells. When there is a lot of bilirubin in the blood, the skin and whites of the eyes get yellow. The yellow color of the skin and eyes is called jaundice. Your skin may itch and your urine may be dark yellow or brown.
This test may be done to:
- Check the level of bilirubin if you have jaundice
- See how well the liver or other parts of the digestive system are working
- Check for certain blood problems, such as some types of anemia, where the red blood cells are breaking down faster than normal
How do I prepare for this test?
- You may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Make sure your healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that you are taking. Ask your healthcare provider before stopping any of your regular medicines.
- Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to stop eating and drinking before the test. Food and drink before the test may affect the results. If your provider says to take your medicine before your blood test, you may need to take it with only a small sip of water. Ask your healthcare provider about this.
- Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.
How is the test done?
Having this test will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.
Ask your healthcare provider when and how you will get the result of the test.
What does the test result mean?
Your level of bilirubin may be higher than normal because:
- You are taking a medicine that raises the bilirubin level in your blood.
- You have an infection.
- You have a liver or digestive system disease, such as hepatitis or gallstones.
- You have a blood problem, such as anemia.
- You have Gilbert’s syndrome. Gilbert’s syndrome is a harmless genetic condition that causes no symptoms other than mild jaundice.
What if the test result is not normal?
Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about your result and ask questions, such as:
- If you need more tests
- What kind of treatment you might need
- What lifestyle, diet, or other changes you might need to make
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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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