A bilirubin test measures the level of bilirubin (a byproduct of the normal breakdown of old red blood cells) in the blood. Normally, bilirubin passes through the liver and is excreted through the intestines as bile (a yellowish colored fluid that helps in the digestion of fats). But if that doesn't happen due to a liver disease or other health problem, bilirubin can build up in the blood, causing the skin to take on the yellow discoloration known as jaundice. Healthy newborns, especially premature babies, are susceptible to jaundice because their immature livers are slow to process bilirubin. Jaundice is also fairly common among breastfeeding babies who aren't getting enough milk, or those whose mothers naturally produce substances that raise bilirubin levels.
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