Bilirubin characteristics

Yellowing of the skin by accumulation of bilirubin

What is bilirubin?

Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that occurs as a result of degradation of the hemoglobin or red pigment of blood which carries oxygen to the cells.

Bilirubin is a protein that results when red blood cells break down.

Types of bilirubin

There are two types of bilirubin:

  • Unconjugated bilirubin: it is a type of waterinsoluble bilirubin that needs to be processed by the liver to dissolve.

  • Conjugated bilirubin: It is a soluble type of bilirubin that has been processed by the liver.

What are the normal values of bilirubin?

yellowish coloration of the sclera of the eyes

The yellowish coloration of the sclera of the eyes shows jaundice because of too much bilirubin accumulation. Drawing courtesy of ©

Bilirubin values ​​are considered normal in adults when they are within the following amounts:

  • Unconjugated bilirubin: 0 to 1 mg per dl of blood serum.

  • Conjugated bilirubin: 0 to 0.3 mg per dl of blood serum.

  • Total bilirubin (The sum of the two) from 0.3 mg to 1.9 mg per dl of blood serum.

When are bilirubin values too high?

When the values ​​increase above 3 mg / dl a condition called jaundice appears in which the skin and the mucous membranes become yellowish.

It is a type of disorder that occurs in adults but it is especially prevalent in infants and, especially in newborns which usually have higher values ​​(more about jaundice in babies in the listing above)

Why does an excessive increase of bilirubin in the body take place?

Bilirubin is a substance that must be eliminated from the body. Once the red blood cells die, they are replaced by new ones. Dead red blood cells are processed by the liver. In this process, the hemoglobin is degraded and bilirubin appears.

Bilirubin is stored in the form of bile in the gallbladder. Gallbladder bile is excreted into the duodenum as part of feces to be expelled through defecation.

The main cause of the excess of bilirubin in the body is an abnormal amount due to the increased mortality of red blood cells.

Other possible causes of this excess are:

  • The liver’s inability to properly process bilirubin

  • The hemoglobin reabsorption in the intestine before being expelled in the feces.

What are the main consequences a of bilirubin accumulation in the body?

Excess of dead red blood cells produces an excessive increase of bilirubin, that the body is unable to adequately eliminate through feces.

It accumulates in the tissues causing the typical yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes or whites of the eyes; a condition called jaundice.

More information on jaundice.

Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

19 March, 2019

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