Gilbert’s disease is a relatively common and benign liver disorder. You are born with this condition. It appears that Gilbert’s disease is hereditary. The condition occurs when the liver is not able to change bilirubin into bile efficiently. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment excreted by the liver and is the byproduct of red blood cell breakdown. When the liver is not able to change bilirubin into bile, the bilirubin levels increase in the blood.

Males have this condition more frequently than females. The diagnosis is made most commonly when you are in your teens or early adulthood. The diagnosis is with a blood test. An elevated serum bilirubin level is obtained. Many times individuals with Gilbert’s disease are unaware that they have the disease. They may only find out when they go to donate blood, have incidental laboratory studies done, or go through a mass screening at a health fair. The bilirubin levels in Gilbert’s disease increase if you do not eat and when you have a fever or other illness such as influenza. Typically the other liver function tests are normal. About 3% to 7% of the adult population has Gilbert’s disease.

Living With Your Diagnosis

Gilbert’s disease is characterized by a mild, fluctuating increase in the serum bilirubin levels. There are usually no signs or symptoms of the disease. On occasion, a slight yellow color (jaundice) to the skin or whites of the eyes may be noted. Rarely you may experience tiredness, loss of appetite, or upper abdominal pain.


Gilbert’s disease does not require treatment. It will not interfere with a normal lifestyle.

The DOs

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a proper diet.
  • Make yourself aware of your condition. Inform your health care provider. This may prevent unnecessary medical evaluations in the future.

The DON’Ts

  • Avoid alcohol in excess.
  • Avoid tobacco products.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you believe your skin looks yellow.

For More Information
American Liver Foundation
1425 Pompton Avenue
Cedar Grove, New Jersey 07009

Derived from Patient Teaching Guide, © Mosby, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The contents of wired.MD are for informational purposes only. Nothing contained in wired.MD is intended to substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any health care-related concerns or questions, please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. You should never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen on wired.MD.

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