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Jaundice

Alternative Name   Yellow skin and eyes; Skin - yellow; Icterus; Eyes - yellow; Jaundice

Definition

Jaundice is a yellow color in the skin, the mucous membranes, or the eyes. The yellow pigment is from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells.

Considerations

If you've ever had a bruise, you may have noticed that the skin went through a series of color changes as it healed. When you saw yellow in the bruise, you were seeing bilirubin.

Normally, about 1% of our red blood cells retire every day, to be replaced by fresh red blood cells. The old ones are processed in the liver and disposed of. Much of the resulting bilirubin leaves the body in the stool.

If there are too many red blood cells retiring for the liver to handle, yellow pigment builds up in the body. When there is enough to be visible, jaundice results.

Jaundice can be caused by too many red blood cells retiring, by the liver being overloaded or damaged, or by the inability to move processed bilirubin from the liver through the biliary tract to the gut.

Physiologic jaundice is the name for normal jaundice commonly seen in healthy babies.

causes

Causes in children include:

  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Biliary atresia
  • Breastfeeding jaundice
  • Breast milk jaundice
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Malaria
  • Newborn jaundice (physiologic jaundice)
  • Viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E)

Causes in adults include:

  • Alcoholic liver disease (alcoholic cirrhosis)
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Biliary stricture
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Chronic active hepatitis
  • Drug-induced cholestasis
  • Drug-induced hepatitis
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Malaria