Jaundice consists of a yellow discoloration of the skin, mucus membranes (tissue including that which lines the mouth), and whites of the eyes. It is a symptom that often occurs with liver and gallbladder disorders. It may also be present in certain blood disorders and is occasionally due to benign (normal) metabolic conditions.
Jaundice occurs when excess bilirubin builds up in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown colored substance in the bile that is formed during the body's normal process of breaking down red blood cells. Bile is a liquid that carries waste products (including bilirubin) away from the liver. It also helps break down fats in the small intestine.
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:
Adverse effects of certain medications or environmental toxins
In babies, insufficient amounts of a certain liver enzyme during the first two weeks of life, possibly made worse by breastfeeding
Inherited metabolic disorders, including
Gilbert's, Crigler-Nager, and Dubin-Johnson syndromes
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The risk factors for jaundice are those that increase the risk for liver and gallbladder disorders. They 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
biopsy—removal of a sample of liver tissue for testing. This is usually done with a long needle.
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's syndrome, jaundice tends to occur during stressful periods and clears without treatment.
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 a substance (alcohol or a medicine) that is causing the condition
Addressing the cause of anemia
Taking medications to treat causative infectious diseases
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