Jaundice is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin, the conjunctival membranes over the sclerae .
Someone with jaundice is likely to have a yellow look to their skin and the whites of the eyes.
Many newborn babies develop jaundice, but the condition can affect people of all ages. This article looks at older children and adults.
Jaundice is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood and body tissue. That buildup is often due to conditions affecting the liver, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis or gallstones.
If someone shows signs of jaundice, doctors will look to treat the condition thats causing it rather than jaundice itself.
2. Symptoms of jaundice
As well as the classic yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes, someone with jaundice may also have yellowing of mucous membranes in the mouth and nose.Stools faeces or poo can be pale in colour and urine dark in colour.Some underlying conditions, which lead to jaundice, may feel like flu, and may also result in fever, chills, stomach pain, itching or weightloss or be without an explanation such as a diet.
3. Causes of jaundice
When red blood cells break down naturally in a 120day cycle, bilirubin is produced as a waste byproduct.
The journey bilirubin takes out of the bodys waste disposal systems takes it carried by blood to the liver. There is it combined with bile digestive fluid from the gallbladder.
This mixture exits the body through faeces and urine. If everything is working well, faeces should be brown and urine light yellow.
Infections or damage can disrupt this process, leading to jaundice.
4. Prehepatic jaundice
If an infection or medical condition makes the red blood cells break down sooner than usual, bilirubin levels rise. This is known as prehepatic jaundice.
Conditions which may trigger this include malaria, sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia, Gilberts syndrome, hereditary spherocytosis and CriglerNajjar syndrome.
5. Intrahepatic jaundice
If the liver is damaged, it may be less able to process bilirubin. This causes what doctors call intrahepatic jaundice.
The liver damage may be a result of causes that include hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, glandular fever, liver cancer, illegal drug use including ecstasy, and paracetamol overdose.
Obesity and non alcoholic fatty liver disease can be a cause of cirrhosis of the liver and jaundice.
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