Jaundice: Everything You Need to Know About This Health Condition


Jaundice: Everything You Need to Know About This Health Condition

When seeing pale yellow eyes and skin, Jaundice is the first thing that strikes anyone’s mind. However, jaundice is not a disease per se but a symptom of an underlying condition. Common symptoms of jaundice are yellow skin, pale stools and urine or itchiness. The treatment of jaundice varies according to the underlying cause.

Read on to know about the detailed information about jaundice in this article.

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is a health condition in which the whites of the eyes (sclera), mucous membranes and skin turn pale yellow due to increased bilirubin levels, an orange-yellow bile substance. Bile is typically a fluid secreted by the liver, and bilirubin is formed from the breakdown of red blood cells. It could be caused due to tumours, hepatitis and gallstones. 

Types of Jaundice

There are three types of jaundice. They are as follows-

Obstructive Jaundice: An obstruction in the bile duct prevents bilirubin from exiting from the liver.

Hemolytic Jaundice: It happens because of fast breakdown or hemolysis of red blood cells, leading to increased bilirubin production.

Hepatocellular Jaundice: It happens because of injury or liver diseases.

Although anyone can contract jaundice, older people and infants are at a higher risk as their immune system is either weak or not fully developed. 

Common Symptoms of Jaundice

As mentioned above, you will experience pale yellow skin, usually from the head to the body. Also, you will notice dark urine and pale stools that will not look usual. Apart from these common symptoms, jaundice leads to low bilirubin levels, which can result in the following symptoms- 

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Sudden weight loss

Causes of Jaundice in Newborns

Newborns are most likely to contract jaundice, and the risk is higher if the child is premature. They show symptoms of jaundice within 72 hours of taking birth. Jaundice is babies caused when the red blood cells in the body are broken down and replaced, resulting in increased bilirubin production.

A newborn with a less developed liver doesn’t effectively filter out excess bilirubin from the body. Although the symptoms usually subside in two weeks without any medical treatment, in case of excessive bilirubin levels, the newborn may have to get a phototherapy or blood transfusion for recovery. Failing to do so can lead to kernicterus, a rare type of permanent brain damage, in the baby.

Causes of Jaundice in Adults

Jaundice occurs due to increased levels of bilirubin in red blood cells. However, jaundice is rare in adults, but it can be caused due to following reasons-

Hepatitis: Many infections are caused due to virus in the body. It could either be benign or chronic, lasting up to at least 6 months. Autoimmune disorders or drugs can end up causing hepatitis; over time, it can start affecting the liver, resulting in jaundice.

Alcohol-related Liver Disease: Excessive consumption of alcohol could easily damage your liver in a few years. Alcoholic cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis are two health conditions that harm the liver.

Blocked Bile Ducts: These tubes carry bile fluid from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine that may get blocked by gallstones, cancer, or rare liver diseases. Such obstructions may end up causing jaundice.

Pancreatic Cancer: The 9th most common cancer in women and 10th most common cancer in men resulting in bile duct blockage causing jaundice.

Certain Medicines: Drugs or medicine like penicillin, acetaminophen, steroids and birth control pills also result in liver diseases or jaundice.

Some Rare Health Conditions that Cause Jaundice

Dubin- Johnson Syndrome: Another chronic form of jaundice that stops the excretion of conjugated bilirubin from the liver.

Pseudojaundice- It is a benign form of jaundice that arises from consuming excessive quantities of carrot, pumpkin, or melon.

Crigler Najjar Syndrome- This condition is inherited, harming and impairing the body’s ability to process bilirubin.

What is the Ideal Bilirubin Level?

The bilirubin level should range between 0.3 mg/dL and 0.6 mg/dL in adults and older children. 97% of the newborns born after 9 months of pregnancy show bilirubin levels less than 13 mg/dL. If the babies have a higher level than 13mg/dL, they are put under immediate medical assistance and observation.

Diagnosis of Jaundice

Your health expert will seek complete information about your medical history and perform a medical examination to identify the bilirubin levels in your body. Your doctor will also check your abdomen to feel any tumours or firmness of the liver.

Cirrhosis or scarring of the organ happens when the liver is firm, whereas a tight and stiff liver usually results in cancer. If your doctor cannot diagnose the cause of jaundice, you might have to undergo other tests to identify the actual cause. The tests include: 

  • Hepatitis A, B, and C tests
  • Full blood count (FBC) or complete blood count (CBC)
  • Bilirubin tests

Your health expert will examine your liver if there is an obstruction suspected. You may also be recommended to get imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound done to discover the real problem. Also, getting a liver biopsy can help find the reason behind liver inflammation and other liver-related conditions.

>> Also Read:  Healthy Liver Diet Plan

Jaundice Treatment

The medical procedure your doctor recommends to recover from jaundice depends on the condition's underlying cause. Usually, the treatment targets the primary cause of the disease and not only the symptoms. Some of the treatments include: 

  • Hepatitis-induced Jaundice: It needs steroid or anti-viral medications.
  • Obstruction-induced Jaundice: Doctors may surgically remove the obstruction.
  • Anaemia-induced Jaundice: Doctors may recommend boosting iron content in the blood through iron-rich food or supplements.
  • Jaundice Caused due to Medications: Doctors may recommend alternative medication to treat the symptoms.

Prevention of Jaundice

Jaundice leads to poor liver functionalities and damage; one should take care of their health by following the below-mentioned prevention tips:

  • Consuming a balanced meal
  • Exercising daily
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking

Summing It Up

Recovering from jaundice becomes much easier if you know the condition's underlying cause and seek immediate medical assistance. If you experience anything that concerns you, you better consult the health expert that can suggest you the appropriate treatment for jaundice. You may have to get hospitalised if the condition gets worsen. You may feel distressed with financial overheads if you get hospitalised, so getting health insurance beforehand can save you from spending out of your pocket. The least you can do is buy a comprehensive health insurance plan from Care Health Insurance to cover such unforeseen medical emergencies.

Disclaimer: The information mentioned above is for reference purposes only. Also, kindly consult a professional medical expert to verify the details of health concerns.

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