The name bilirubin comes from the Latin words bilis (bile) and ruber (red). It is produced in organs that are involved in breaking down red blood cells – the spleen, liver and some lymph nodes. It is also known as bile pigment, and it is the breakdown product of haemoglobin, which is yellow in colour. During its lifetime, it binds to proteins in the blood plasma, from where it is transported to the liver and then to the bile. Stool colour is affected by the amount of bilirubin.
In case of liver disease or increased breakdown of red blood cells, its levels may increase. It causes itching and yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and the white of the eyes.