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What is Jaundice
The color of the skin and the white of the eyes will vary according to the levels of bilirubin (waste material found in the blood). Moderate levels lead to a yellow color, while very high levels will appear brown.
About 60 percent of all babies born in the United States have jaundice. However, it can appear in people of all ages and is usually the result of an underlying disease. Jaundice usually indicates a problem with the liver or bile duct.
In this article, Medical News Today will analyze what jaundice is, why it occurs, how it is diagnosed and treated.
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes occur when the body does not process the bilirubin properly. This may be due to a problem in the liver.
It is also known as icterus .
Bilirubin is a yellow waste material that stays in the bloodstream after iron is extracted from the blood.
The liver filters the waste out of the blood. When bilirubin reaches the liver, other chemicals adhere to it. Resulting in a substance called conjugated bilirubin.
The liver produces a digestive juice called bile. The conjugated bilirubin is introduced into the bile and then leaves the body. It is this type of bilirubin that gives the stool its brown color. If there is too much bilirubin, it can leak into the surrounding tissues. This is known as hyper bilirubinemia and causes yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Jaundice occurs most often as a result of an underlying disorder that causes the production of too much bilirubin or prevents the liver from getting rid of it. Both cause the bilirubin to deposit in the tissues.
Underlying diseases that can cause jaundice include:
Cholestasis: This interrupts the flow of bile from the liver. Bile containing conjugated bilirubin remains in the liver instead of being excreted.
The rarest conditions that can cause jaundice include:
The treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
The goal of treatment for jaundice is to end the cause and not the symptoms.
The following treatments are used:
Jaundice is related to liver function. It is essential that people maintain the health of this vital organ by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and not consuming more than the recommended amounts of alcohol.
The common symptoms of jaundice include:
Symptoms associated with jaundice as a result of low levels of bilirubin include:
The itching that accompanies yellow can sometimes be so intense that patients are known to scratch rough skin, experience insomnia or, in extreme cases, even have suicidal thoughts.
When complications occur, this is usually due to the underlying problem, not
For example, if a blocked bile duct causes jaundice, uncontrolled bleeding may occur. This is because the blockade causes a shortage of vitamins necessary for coagulation.
There are three main types of jaundice:
Jaundice is a common health problem in newborns. About 60 percent of newborns experience yellow, and this increases to 80 percent in premature babies, born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
They will usually show signs within 72 hours after birth.
The red blood cells in a baby’s body often break down and are replaced. This causes the production of more bilirubin. In addition, the livers of babies are less developed and, therefore, less effective in filtering bilirubin from the body.
Symptoms usually resolve without treatment within a period of 2 weeks. However, babies with extremely high levels of bilirubin will require treatment with either a blood transfusion or phototherapy.
In these cases, treatment is vital since jaundice in newborns can lead to kernicterus, a very rare type of permanent brain damage.
The level of bilirubin is defined in a blood test called the bilirubin test. This measures unconjugated or indirect bilirubin levels. These are responsible for the appearance of jaundice.
Bilirubin levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg / dL). Adults and older children should have a level between 0.3 and 0.6 mg / dL. About 97 percent of babies born after 9 months of pregnancy have levels below 13 mg / dL. If they show higher levels than this, they are usually referred for further research.
These ranges may differ between laboratories. The type of treatment will depend on the levels of the patient.
Most likely, doctors will use the patient’s history and a physical exam to diagnose jaundice and confirm bilirubin levels. They will pay close attention to the abdomen, look for tumors and control the firmness of the liver.
A firm liver indicates cirrhosis or scarring of the liver. A hard liver like a rock suggests cancer.
Different tests can confirm jaundice. The first is a liver function test to determine if the liver is functioning properly or not.
If a doctor can not find the cause, you can request a blood test to check the bilirubin levels and the composition of the blood. These include:
The doctor will examine the structure of the liver if you suspect an obstruction. In these cases, they will use imaging tests, including MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) can also be performed. This procedure combines endoscopy and X-ray images. A liver biopsy can detect inflammation, cirrhosis, cancer and fatty liver. This test involves inserting a needle into the liver to obtain a tissue sample. The sample is examined under a microscope.