Jaundice, also known as icterus, is a term used to describe a yellowish tinge to the skin and sclerae (the white part of the eye) that is caused by an excess of bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia). Body fluids may also be yellow.
- Acute inflammation of the liver - may impair the ability of the liver to conjugate and secrete bilirubin, resulting in a buildup.
- Inflammation of the bile duct - may prevent the secretion of bile and removal of bilirubin, causing jaundice.
- Obstruction of the bile duct - prevents the liver from disposing of bilirubin.
- Hemolytic anemia - production of bilirubin increases when large quantities of red blood cells are broken down.
- Gilbert’s syndrome - an inherited condition that impairs the ability of enzymes to process the excretion of bile.
- Cholestasis - a condition where the flow of bile from the liver is interrupted. The bile containing conjugated bilirubin remains in the liver instead of being excreted.
Other rare conditions that can result to jaundice are:
- Crigler-Najjar syndrome - an inherited condition that impairs the specific enzyme responsible for processing bilirubin
- Dubin-Johnson syndrome - an inherited form of chronic jaundice that prevents conjugated bilirubin from being secreted out of the liver’s cells
- Pseudojaundice - a harmless form of jaundice in which the yellowing of the skin results from an excess of beta-carotene, not from an excess of bilirubin; usually from eating lots of carrots, pumpkin, or melon.
ellow tinge to the skin and the whites of the eyes, normally starting at the head and spreading down the body
Abdominal pain - typically indicates a blockage of the bile duct
Paler than usual stools
Three Types of jaundice
- Hepatocellular jaundice - occurs as a result of liver disease or injury
- Hemolytic jaundice - occurs as a result of hemolysis (an accelerated breakdown of red blood cells) leading to an increase in production of bilirubin
- Obstructive jaundice - occurs as a result of an obstruction in the bile duct (a system of tubes that carries bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine), which prevents bilirubin from leaving the liver.
Treatment of jaundice typically requires a diagnosis of the specific cause in order to select suitable treatment options. Treatment would then target the cause, rather than the jaundice itself.
Anemia-induced jaundice may be treated by increasing the amount of iron in the blood; either by taking iron supplements or eating more iron-rich foods.
Hepatitis-induced jaundice may be treated with anti-viral or steroid medications.
Obstruction-induced jaundice may be treated via surgery to remove the obstruction.
Medication-induced jaundice is treated by selecting an alternative medication and by discontinuing medications that caused jaundice.