Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the skin, mucus membranes, and whites of the eyes.
Jaundice is caused by an excess of bilirubin 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:
Jaundice may indicate another condition or disease. In addition to jaundice, you may experience other symptoms. Symptoms may include:
Fever or chills
Unexplained weight loss
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:
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 substances that cause jaundice such as alcohol or medication
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 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 other medications such as
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 05/08/2014
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