Jaundice is a symptom of several different conditions that cause a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It is the result of too much bilirubin that has built up in the body. Bilirubin is formed when hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells that transports oxygen in red blood cells, breaks down. As blood cells break down, they are processed by the liver. If the liver is unable to process the red blood cells, bilirubin builds up in the body, causing the skin to yellow, urine to darken, and skin to itch.

Causes of Jaundice

  • Liver disorder or disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Infection
  • Medication
  • Cancer
  • Disorders of the blood
  • Medical condition
  • Birth defect

Jaundice is also common in newborn infants, usually as a result of a liver that has not fully matured. Jaundice is especially common in premature babies, but is not serious and usually clears up within a week.

Symptoms of Jaundice

  • Yellowed skin and whites of the eyes
  • Inside of the mouth is yellow
  • Urine is dark or brown
  • Stools are pale or clay-colored
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain or tenderness
  • Mental confusion
  • Fever

Diagnosis of Jaundice

After a thorough medical examination, the physician may order the following tests to confirm the diagnosis of jaundice:

  • Bilirubin blood tests
  • Hepatitis blood test
  • Liver function test
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen
  • CT scan of the abdomen
  • Biopsy of the liver
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Cholesterol level blood test
  • MRI of the bile and pancreatic ducts

Treatment of Jaundice

Treatment of jaundice is accomplished by treating the underlying disorder. It is important to see the doctor if there are symptoms of jaundice, as it can be an indication of a serious health condition.

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