What is Gilbert’s Syndrome

Gilbert’s Syndrome is a disease of the Liver.

There is a deficiency of an enzyme in the liver, which helps conjugate (attach) bilirubin (a by-product of haemoglobin breakdown) to a transporter molecule for excretion – hence there is an excess of bilirubin in the blood. This leads to no adverse effects in the patient but it leads to abnormal blood tests.

Statistics on Gilbert’s Syndrome

This is a very common disorder with an incidence of 3-7%. However, because most people have no symptoms (asymptomatic) and it is usually picked up on a laboratory test – most people do not know they have it. It is more common in males than females.

Risk Factors for Gilbert’s Syndrome

Gilbert’s syndrome is a familial disorder, with 5-15% of patients having a family history of jaundice. Not all patients with the genetic defect in the enzyme become clinically jaundiced, however,
the patient can become jaundiced during a mild illness.

Progression of Gilbert’s Syndrome

The condition is usually diagnosed on a lab test by chance. Alternatively, patients may develop mild jaundice, especially during periods of fasting or mild illness.

How is Gilbert’s Syndrome Diagnosed?


  • Liver function tests – elevated bilirubin; otherwise normal.
  • Full blood count with peripheral smear, haptoglobin and reticulocyte count – there will be no evidence of red blood cell breakdown – another cause of high unconjugated bilirubin.

  • Prognosis of Gilbert’s Syndrome

    It is a completely benign (harmless) condition with no morbidity or increased risk of mortality. Patients naturally have a normal life expectancy.

    How is Gilbert’s Syndrome Treated?

    No treatment required.

    Gilbert’s Syndrome References

    [1] Braunwald, Fauci, Kasper, Hauser, Longo, Jameson. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 15th Edition. McGraw-Hill. 2001.
    [2] Cotran, Kumar, Collins 6th edition. Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease. WB Saunders Company. 1999.
    [3] Haslet C, Chiliers ER, Boon NA, Colledge NR. Principles and Practice of Medicine. Churchill Livingstone 2002.
    [4] Hurst JW (Editor-in-chief). Medicine for the practicing physician. 4th edition Appleton and Lange 1996.
    [5] Kumar P, Clark M. CLINICAL MEDICINE. WB Saunders 2002.
    [6] Longmore M, Wilkinson I, Torok E. OXFORD HANDBOOK OF CLINICAL MEDICINE. Oxford Universtiy Press. 2001
    [7] McLatchie G and LEaper DJ (editors). Oxford Handbook of Clinical Surgery 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press 2002.
    [8] MEDLINE Plus
    [9] Raftery AT Churchill’s pocketbook of Surgery. Churchill Livingsone 2001.
    [10] Tjandra, JJ, Clunie GJ, Thomas, RJS,; Textbook of Surgery, 2nd Ed, Blackwell Science, Asia. 2001.