What is Gilbert syndrome?

What is Gilbert syndrome?

After receiving comments and questions about his “yellow eyes,” “Bachelor” star Joey Graziadei took to social media Thursday to reveal he has Gilbert syndrome, a liver condition that can affect the color of your skin and eyes. 

Gilbert syndrome is an inherited disorder that “affects the liver’s ability to process bilirubin, a waste product that forms during the breakdown of old red blood cells,” the Cleveland Clinic explains. When too much bilirubin builds up in the blood, jaundice — or yellowish skin and eyes — can occur.

Graziadei says he was diagnosed with Gilbert syndrome when he was in high school, but his health is fine.

“At the end of the day, I am told that I am healthy. It’s something that does affect the whites of my eyes. It makes it have those jaundice levels, which is why they look a little bit more yellow,” he said in a video post. “… I do appreciate everyone looking out for me and wondering if I’m okay. But to my knowledge, I’m as okay as I can be.” 

Joey Graziadei
Joey Graziadei at a press event for “The Bachelor.”

Stephanie Augello/Disney via Getty Images

An estimated 3% to 7% of Americans have Gilbert’s syndrome, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which notes that the liver disorder is more common in males than in females and can affect all ages, races and ethnicities. 

Gilbert syndrome symptoms

In addition to yellowing of the skin or eyes, the Cleveland Clinic says people who have jaundice or Gilbert’s syndrome also may experience:

  • Dark-colored urine or clay-colored stool
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Loss of appetite

Symptoms can worsen under certain circumstances. For example, bilirubin levels may increase due to dehydration, getting sick, fasting or not eating enough, stress, or menstruation.

“It’s worse when I have stress or lack of sleep, which happens on a TV show,” Graziadei says of his own experience. “It’s just something that I have to pay attention to in drinking more fluids.”

Gilbert syndrome risk factors and treatment

Since Gilbert syndrome is an inherited condition, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent it. But if both your parents carry the modified gene that causes the disorder, you know you’re at increased risk.

“Although it’s present from birth, Gilbert syndrome usually isn’t noticed until puberty or later, since bilirubin production increases during puberty,” the Mayo Clinic says.

It is generally not a serious health threat and does not require treatment.

“Gilbert’s syndrome is a mild condition. It doesn’t cause long-term complications or serious health problems,” the Cleveland Clinic notes.

You might not even know you have Gilbert syndrome until it’s discovered by accident through blood tests.

Such was the case for Graziadei, who was diagnosed as a teen after getting tests done at the doctor’s.

“I had bloodwork done, and the bloodwork showed that my bilirubin count was very high,” he explained in his post. “That means that there could be something that was wrong with my liver, so we went and I got a liver ultrasound. … They found out that there was nothing that was necessarily wrong like hepatitis, but they diagnosed me with something called Gilbert syndrome.”

If you are experiencing jaundice, the Mayo Clinic recommends seeing a health care provider as it can have many possible causes.

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