Jaundice is a medical condition that occurs when the level of bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced by the liver, builds up in the blood. The most noticeable symptom of jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Other symptoms can include fatigue, abdominal pain, dark urine, and pale stools.
Jaundice can be caused by a variety of underlying medical conditions, such as liver disease, hepatitis, or gallstones. Treatment for jaundice depends on the underlying cause and can range from medications to surgery. If left untreated, severe jaundice can lead to complications such as brain damage, so it is important to seek medical attention if symptoms of jaundice are present.
When the liver isn’t doing its job, a waste product called bilirubin can accumulate in the bloodstream. Even at low levels, bilirubin can cause yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes, Depending on how far along it is, the hue may shift from yellow to green. The green hue can be attributed to biliverdin, a pigment found in bile.
Regardless of age, jaundice is almost always caused by another medical problem. This condition is most likely to occur in newborns and the elderly.
This article will go over the various causes of jaundice, how medical professionals identify and treat it, and what you can do to help prevent it. This article also delves into the signs and symptoms that may be present.
Reasons and potential contributors
The natural breakdown of red blood cells results in an increase in bilirubin levels. The liver normally removes this waste product from the circulatory system and converts it to a different form called conjugated bilirubin. When the new form is complete, it passes out of the body in the form of stool.
A buildup of bilirubin can occur if there is more of it than the liver can handle. This condition, called hyperbilirubinemia, is responsible for the characteristic yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Most cases of jaundice can be traced back to a disease that either increases bilirubin production or prevents the liver from processing it.
Causes and conditions that might lie beneath jaundice’s surface include:
- Negative reactions to drugs
- Alcohol abuse leads to gallstones
- liver infections like hepatitis
- Viral hepatitis cancer of the gallbladder or pancreas leads to scar tissue replacing healthy liver tissue
- The disorder of hemolysis in the blood
The treatment for jaundice will depend on what is causing it.
Itching, also known as pruritis, can be a symptom of jaundice. Warm oatmeal baths and antihistamines are suggested for mild pruritis.
- In cases of severe pruritis, a doctor may prescribe cholestyramine or colestipol.
- Damage to the liver, as indicated by jaundice, can sometimes necessitate a liver transplant.
- Liver health plays a role in preventing jaundice.
- Several alterations in behavior can aid in liver health maintenance for individuals
- keeping one’s diet in check
It may be also due to the following factor
- consistent physical activity
- cutting back on alcoholic beverages
- avoiding compounds and other sources of inhaled or touched toxins
- vigilant medication management
Always make a practice of avoiding taking any herbal supplements, vitamins, or medications without first talking to your doctor. Also, it is of utmost importance to avoid exceeding the prescribed dosage of any medication
You may also be prudent in using effective contraception, like condoms and condom devices, and getting the vaccinations that are recommended before leaving on a trip
Jaundice typically manifests itself in these ways:
- pale stools
- pale skin and mucous membranes
- yellowing of the whites of the eyes
- a dark, itchy urine
Yellowing can appear all over an infant’s body, from the scalp all the way to the soles of his or her feet.
The NHS in the United Kingdom has acknowledged the possibility that people with darker skin tones may have less noticeable jaundice symptoms. The whites of the eyes show it more clearly.
Jaundice often has these other symptoms associated with it:
- Tummy ache or feeling weary
- Loss of weight and fatigue
- Fever and chills
High concentrations manifestations
Infants who are exposed to high levels of bilirubin from a Reliable Source may develop a rare but serious form of brain damage called kernicterus. Jaundice’s underlying causes can bring on their own set of problems.
Levels of bilirubin
A 2021 article states that bilirubin levels below 1 mg/dl are considered normal.
If they rise to around 3 mg/dl or higher, a diagnosis of jaundice is made.
Jaundice in infants can be diagnosed if their bilirubin levels reach 5 mg/dl daily, or more than 0.2 mg/dl per hour, as reported by a reputable source.
Different labs may report different possible ranges. The severity of elevations above the range of normal will assist a physician to decide on the most effective treatment.
Classifications of Jaundice
There are three primary forms of jaundice, and they are:
Higher levels of unconjugated bilirubin occur pre hepatically, even before the liver processes the waste.
This process, which takes place in the liver, leads to elevated levels of conjugated and unconjugated bilirubin.
An increase in conjugated bilirubin occurs post hepatically after the liver has already processed the waste.
In order to diagnose jaundice, doctors will first look at the patient’s history and perform a physical exam. As time goes on, they might also decide to request laboratory testing.
The skin, liver, and stomach will all get a thorough examination.
The diagnosis of jaundice often involves laboratory tests ordered by the treating physician. Among these are:
Hemolytic jaundice can be diagnosed through bilirubin testing if the unconjugated bilirubin level is significantly higher than the conjugated bilirubin level.
Complete blood cell count (CBC) or full blood cell count (FBC): This checks the number of RBCs, WBCs, and Platelets in the blood.
Liver infection screenings, including for hepatitis A, B, and C.
If the doctor suspects an obstruction, they will also look at the liver’s structure. Imaging tests like MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds will be used in these situations.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography may also be performed (ERCP). In this technique, X-ray imaging is combined with endoscopy.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, a medical doctor or another qualified healthcare professional can perform a liver biopsy. Liver inflammation, cancer, cirrhosis, and fatty liver can all be diagnosed with a liver biopsy. A needle is inserted into the liver and a tissue sample is taken for analysis. A medical expert will then conduct a microscopic analysis of the specimen.
Causes and treatments for newborn jaundice
Baby jaundice is very common.
According to the CDC, signs of jaundice typically appear within the first 48 hours of a newborn’s life. Babies should be checked by a doctor or nurse between days 3 and 5. This is due to the fact that bilirubin concentrations tend to peak around those times.
The body of a newborn undergoes frequent cell death and replacement of its red blood cell supply. Additional bilirubin is produced as a result. Additionally, infants’ livers are underdeveloped, making them less efficient at filtering bilirubin out of the body.
In milder cases, symptoms typically go away on their own. Still, blood transfusions or phototherapy are necessary for infants with extremely high bilirubin levels.
Treatment of neonatal jaundice is critical in these cases to reduce the risk of kernicterus.
Newborn jaundice: possible causes
Some underlying illnesses may trigger jaundice in infants, despite the fact that jaundice is common and quite often resolves without treatment. Among these are:
Rhesus disease, in which the mother’s antibodies destroy the baby’s blood cells, an underactive thyroid gland, and blood group incompatibility all increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.
- an infection of the urinary tract
- obstruction of the gallbladder or bile ducts
- Crigler-Najjar syndrome is a disorder of bilirubin-processing enzymes.
In addition to causing an increase in jaundice risk in newborns, breastfeeding and chestfeeding are both practices that should be avoided. But there’s no reason to stop breastfeeding at this stage. Jaundice symptoms typically disappear after a few weeks if this is the case.
With jaundice, your skin and eye whites will become yellow. Jaundice is the result of an excess of bilirubin in the blood. Hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that transports oxygen, contains a yellow chemical called bilirubin. Every time an old red blood cell dies, a new one is made to take its place. The liver breaks down the obsolete ones. When the liver is unable to process the breakdown of blood cells, bilirubin accumulates and causes a yellowing of the skin.
Jaundice is common in the first week of life, even in healthy newborns. In most cases, you won’t notice it again. Jaundice, however, can occur at any age and is a possible indicator of a health issue. Causes of jaundice range widely and may include:
- Disorders of the Blood
- Disorders of heredity
- Cirrhosis and hepatitis are just two examples of the many diseases of the liver.
- Intestinal obstruction
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