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Jaundice Symptoms & Diagnosis


Jaundice appears as a yellow discoloration of the skin, mucus membranes, and/or whites of the eyes.

Depending on the specific disorder that causes jaundice, other symptoms may occur, such as tiredness, fatigue, fever, chills, and unexplained weight loss.


If you have jaundice, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Your doctor will ask you questions about:

  • Use of alcohol, herbal supplements, and medications
  • Abdominal surgeries
  • HIV exposure
  • Family history of liver diseases

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests—tests to detect elevated bilirubin and liver enzyme levels, or other abnormalities related to the suspected cause of jaundice
  • Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine internal organs; in this case, the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts
  • CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body; in this case, the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and surrounding tissues
  • Cholangiography—an invasive test that uses x-rays and a large needle inserted into the liver to examine the gallbladder and bile ducts; sometimes performed during abdominal surgery
  • ERCP test—combines x-rays and an endoscope, which is a long, flexible, lighted tube that is inserted down the throat. This is done to examine the duodenum (first part of the small intestine), bile ducts, and pancreatic ducts. The magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) test is an alternative to the ERCP test.
  • Laparoscopy—insertion of a tube and other instruments through small incisions in the abdominal wall to directly view the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and other structures
  • Liver biopsy—removal of a sample of liver tissue for testing. This is usually done with a long needle.

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2016 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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