Jaundice

(Yellowing of Skin)

Definition

Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the skin, mucus membranes, and whites of the eyes.

Causes

Jaundice occurs when excess bilirubin builds up in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown colored substance in bile. Bile is a liquid that carries waste products and bilirubin away from the liver. It also helps break down fats in the small intestine. It is formed during the body's normal process of breaking down red blood cells.There are several reasons why too much bilirubin can build up in the blood. They include:
  • Excess breakdown of red blood cells, which can occur in:
  • A blockage in or near the liver that prevents the flow of bile, such as:
    Liver, Gallbladder, and Bile duct
    Nucleus Image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Liver damage caused by:
  • In babies, insufficient amounts of a certain liver enzyme during the first 2 weeks of life
  • Inherited metabolic disorders, including Gilbert , Crigler-Nager, and Dubin-Johnson syndromes

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of jaundice are similar to risk factors for liver and gallbladder disorders. They may include:

Symptoms

Jaundice may indicate another condition or disease. In addition to jaundice, you may experience other symptoms. Symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • Fever or chills
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In order to make a diagnosis on what is causing jaundice, your doctor may recommend tests. Tests may include:

Treatment

In most other types of jaundice, the specific condition causing it must be treated. There are many treatments that may be used for liver and gallbladder problems depending on the exact condition. They include:
  • Avoiding a substance, like alcohol or medication, that is causing the condition
  • Addressing the cause of anemia
  • Taking medication to treat infectious diseases
  • Relieving bile duct obstructions by:
Mild jaundice in newborns is common and usually clears without treatment. If bilirubin levels rise above a certain level, the baby may receive phototherapy, which is treatment with a special ultraviolet light. In Gilbert syndrome, jaundice tends to clear without treatment.

Prevention

Prevention depends on the disorder causing jaundice. You may not be able to prevent some of the disorders. However, you can take the steps below to decrease your chance of developing liver disease:
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderation is no more than 2 drinks per day for men or 1 drink per day for women.
  • Be careful mixing alcohol with over-the-counter and prescription medication, such as acetaminophen.
  • Avoid exposure to industrial chemicals.
  • Do not use illicit drugs.
  • Do not share needles or nasal snorting equipment.
  • Practice safe sex.
  • To decrease your risk of hepatitis A, get the hepatitis A vaccine.
  • To decrease your risk of hepatitis B, get the hepatitis B vaccine.

RESOURCES

American Liver Foundation
http://www.liverfoundation.org

Gastro—American Gastroenterological Association
http://www.gastro.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Liver Foundation
http://www.liver.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References

Bilirubin. American Association for Clinical Chemistry Lab Tests Online website. Available at: http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/analytes/bilirubin/tab/glance. Updated March 18, 2013. Accessed April 23, 2013.

Abnormal liver function tests—differential diagnosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 14, 2012. Accessed April 24, 2013.

Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 15, 2013. Accessed April 24, 2013.

Revision Information

leave comments
0
Did you like this? Share with your family and friends.
Related Topics:
Current Research From Top Journals


Early Peanut Consumption Associated with Lower Risk of Peanut Allergy in High Risk Children
March 2015

Many medical groups felt that early exposure to certain foods like peanuts increased a child's risk of developing food allergies. However, newer research including this trial suggest that early exposure may actually decrease the risk of developing food allergies.

dot separator
previous editions

Breastfeeding May Decrease the Risk of Childhood Obesity
February 2015

Tonsillectomy May Reduce Number of Sore Throat Days in Children
February 2015

Research Review Finds Little Support for Nearly Half of Medical Talk Show Recommendations
January 2015

dashed separator

Advertisement

Our Free Newsletter
click here to see all of our uplifting newsletters »

 

Advertisement

Advertisement

DiggDeliciousNewsvineRedditStumbleTechnoratiFacebook