Urobilinogen in Urine: What Does it Mean for Your Health?

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Urobilinogen is a colorless by-product of reduction in bilirubin. This chemical is formed in the intestines through bacterial action on bilirubin. The normal value of urobilinogen in the urine should be 17umol/l. If there is a spike in the urobilinogen level via a urine sample, you need to have yourself checked by a doctor.

An increased value of urobilinogen in the urine is indicative of liver diseases including hemolytic anemia, hepatitis, and cirrhosis. If left untreated, liver disease will result in death.

To check your current urobilinogen value, you need to check a urine test. A urine test kit is available at your local pharmacy. However, to determine the true status of your health, you’d have to go to a clinic for further lab testing.

How Urobilinogen Affects the Liver

The walls of the intestines generate bilirubin. This compound is broken down by the body into urobilinogen before being flushed out by the kidneys. Ruptured red blood cells could cause an increase in bilirubin. The spike in bilirubin is indicative of liver or intestine infection. When this occurs, further testing is needed to determine the exact cause of abnormal value of bilirubin in the system.

Symptoms of Abnormal Urobilinogen Level

The most common symptoms of abnormal urobilinogen levels in urine include dark colored urine and light colored stools. A person with abnormal urobilinogen value would appear yellowish in color because of jaundice. Jaundice is the most reliable sign of a liver disease.

Causes of Abnormal Urobilinogen Level

The level of urobilinogen in urine typically remains in the normal range. Any slight change could indicate a problem in the liver and/or intestines. Below are the possible causes of abnormal urobilinogen levels:

Certain Medications

For patients with low urobilinogen level, the reason could be the intake of antibiotics. The intestines are teeming with trillions of bacteria that assist in digestion and nutrient absorption. Antibiotics interfere with the natural flora of the intestinal lining by killing beneficial microbes in the intestines. This causes the urobilinogen level to dip. Antibacterial medications, high doses of ascorbic acid and ammonium chloride typically affect the urobilinogen level in the gut.

If drugs cause the condition, your doctor will either stop the drug therapy or replace the medications you are using.

Cancer and Liver Cirrhosis

A sustained level of urobilinogen in the system could be caused by cancer of the liver or liver cirrhosis. Any of these progressive diseases affects the liver, causing the organ to weaken. And when the liver is weakened or damaged, the urobilinogen in the system accumulates.

Hemolytic anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a form of anemia caused by the breakdown of red blood cells either within the blood vessels or in other parts of the body. The breakdown of red blood cells in the body increases the level of fecal and urinary urobilinogen.

This condition is typically inherited or acquired. Symptoms of hemolytic anemia include jaundice, fatigue, and shortness of breath. If the abnormal value of urobilinogen is caused by hemolytic anemia, your doctor could recommend iron supplements. Depending on the severity of the condition, the supplements could be taken orally or intravenously.

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