High Bilirubin Levels in Adults


High bilirubin levels in adults cause a condition called jaundice. Jaundice is characterized by yellow eyes and yellow skin. Hundreds of medical conditions can cause high bilirubin levels in adults. However, some of these medical conditions are fairly common and most can be treated or at least managed. Bilirubin is a yellow compound that forms when the hemoglobin from red blood cells breaks down.


  • Hepatitis occurs when the liver becomes inflamed and it can cause high bilirubin levels in adults. There are five types of hepatitis: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Viruses, contaminated water and food, trauma and alcohol abuse are the most common causes of all forms of hepatitis. However, not all of these causes will lead to all forms of hepatitis. All forms of hepatitis can be managed and the prognosis is often good--although infection can be serious--if it is caught in time and properly managed. Hepatitis A is curable and often resolves itself without medical intervention.


  • A hematoma occurs when blood collects in a specific area and it can cause elevated bilirubin levels in adults. The most commonly experienced hematoma is a bruise. As the bruise begins to heal, bilirubin will multiply at the site of the bruise and as the purple or black color of the bruise begins to fade the bruise will take on a yellow color until it fully heals. Hematomas are most often caused by trauma. They can be quite serious, especially if they affect the brain, and may need to be treated by a doctor.


  • Mononucleosis, also referred to as glandular fever, is an infectious viral disease that can cause high bilirubin levels in adults. This disease is quite common and is passed from one person to another through infected saliva. This disease has no specific treatment regimen and most patients recover by consuming plenty of fluids and getting adequate rest. However, if a patient experiences severely swollen tonsils or a severely swollen throat, a type of medication called corticosteroids may be necessary to ease the swelling. Most patients make a full recovery from mononucleosis.


  • Sepsis is a blood infection and it occurs when infected micro-organisms make their way into the blood stream. Since sepsis affects the blood it can lead to high bilirubin levels in adults. Sepsis can be fatal if not treated properly and timely with antibiotics. In more severe cases, the patient may need to have any pus drained surgically. If sepsis is caught and treated in time most patients will make a full recovery.

Sickle Cell Anemia

  • Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder. Patients with sickle cell anemia will have red blood cells that are shaped like sickles instead of in the shape of a doughnut. Since sickle cell anemia affects the blood, patients can experience high bilirubin levels. This condition tends to shorten most patients' lifespans, however, treatments such as bone marrow transplants may help to improve the length and quality of life for some patients.

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