Conditions, Health & Wellness

Urobilinogen in Urine: What It Is and How to Check It at Home

Urobilinogen is a colorless by-product of bilirubin production. Created in the intestine, the compound is formed thanks to bacterial action on bilirubin. Half of the compound is then reabsorbed by blood and then excreted by the kidneys. Bilirubin is something healthy people do not have in their body, as it is a waste product. But increased amounts of bilirubin generate increased levels of urobilinogen in the gut. This is what happens when you’re suffering from a liver disease. The best way to check is to check for urobilinogen in a urine test.

Does urobilinogen affect the liver?

The main reason to become concerned when you have increased levels of urobilinogen in your urine is how this affects the liver. Your intestines generate bilirubin, a compound that your body breaks down and flushes out (thanks to kidneys). However, a spike in bilirubin indicates that your liver is not working properly. As we will discuss later, there are many diseases linked with increased urobilinogen in urine levels.

The symptoms you should be looking for are dark-colored urine and light-colored stools. Both are indicators that something is not right. Your skin color will also turn yellowish due to jaundice, the most reliable sign of liver disease.

Cause of high levels of urobilinogen

When you’re healthy, your urobilinogen levels are normal. But any change indicates a problem, and that something is not working properly in your liver and intestines. There are different causes for this problem. Let’s take a look at some.

The most common cause (which is not a reason to panic) is certain medications. When you take antibiotics, your intestines are just not able to get all the work done. Bacteria affect their digestion and nutrient absorption properties. Antibiotics are a must when you suffer from certain diseases, but they interfere with the natural flora of your intestinal lining. Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, but also good bacteria living in the intestines. If medications are the cause of increased levels of urobilinogen in your urine, your doctor might prescribe an alternative therapy.

Liver diseases, on the other hand, are a more serious problem. Another cause is cancer of the liver or liver cirrhosis. Both of these progressive diseases affect your liver. In the case of a liver disease, your liver is weakened, and can’t work properly. As a result, urobilinogen in your system accumulates.

Last, but not least, another cause of the problem might be hemolytic anemia. This is a form of anemia that is a result of a breakdown of red blood cells in any part of your body. As a result of the breakdown, levels of fecal and urinary urobilinogen increase. This disease is not something that just happens. In most cases, hemolytic anemia is an inherited disease. Symptoms include jaundice, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Your doctor will almost always recommend iron supplements. And depending on the severity of the problem, you might take the supplements orally or intravenously.

How to check for urobilinogen

The good news is that you can easily check for urobilinogen in the urine at home. At any pharmacy, you can find tests for bilirubin and for urobilinogen. The smart choice is to get both.

Bilirubin is not present in the urine when you’re healthy. Bilirubin, as noted previously, is a waste product produced by the liver. The results of the bilirubin test are usually considered along with the results of the urobilinogen test. The latter is actually present in the urine, but in very low concentrations. Urobilinogen is formed in the intestine from bilirubin, and a portion of the compound is then absorbed back into the blood. Positive tests for urobilinogen can indicate liver disease.

What’s the normal value?

Just so that you know what to look for, let’s talk about what is and isn’t normal. Even when you have normal urobilinogen values, further testing is a smart choice if you want to completely check your health status.

The normal range is less than 17umol/l, or fewer than 1mg/dl. The measuring range for urobilinogen goes from 0 to 8mg/dl.

Anything more than 1mg/dl is considered an increased value, which may indicate excessive RBC breakdown, overburden of the liver, hepatic infection, poisoning, liver cirrhosis, restricted liver function, and other liver diseases.

There are also situations when the value is lower than normal, which means that your liver isn’t producing bile and there is an obstruction of the bile passage. In both cases, further testing shows the cause of the problem.

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