Jaundice is a liver-related condition characterized by yellowing of the skin, whites of the eye(sclera), and mucous membrane. The condition usually occurs as a result of build-up of a yellow substance known as bilirubin in the bloodstream. This substance is processed in the liver and mixed into bile. When the levels of this bilirubin change and are unable to be properly removed from the body, then the overload occurs.
Types of Jaundice
There are different types of jaundice, which include:
- Haemolytic jaundice: This occurs when the breakdown of the red blood cells is abnormal, leading to build-up of bilirubin in the blood.
- Obstructive jaundice: Happens when there is a blockage in the bile duct.
- Hepatocellular jaundice: Occurs when there is damage to the liver, or if it has been affected by a disorder.
Causes of Jaundice
The causes of jaundice revolve around the production of bilirubin in any of its three phases (before, during, and after production). Before its production, jaundice can be caused by the following:
- Reabsorption of a large hematoma (clotted or partially clotted blood under the skin
- Hemolytic anemia
- Autoimmune disorders
- Viruses like Hepatitis A
- Rare genetic metabolic disorders
After the production of bilirubin, jaundice may be caused by obstruction of the bile duct as a result of:
- Inflammation of the gallbladder
- Gallbladder cancer
- Pancreatic tumor
Symptoms of Jaundice
The common symptoms of jaundice include:
- Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. This is the most obvious symptom of the condition.
- Pale stools
- Darkened urine
- Flu-like symptoms
Diagnosis of Jaundice
Usually, jaundice is diagnosed through a physical examination by looking at the obvious symptoms which include the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. But to know the amount of bilirubin present, the doctor will order a test of the blood and urine. This will also reveal if there are any liver or blood problems present or any other viral infections which may have led to the jaundice. The skin may also be tested to measure the levels of bilirubin. This is done using a special light.
Treatment of Jaundice
The treatment of jaundice is determined after a definite diagnosis of the cause and is dependent on the underlying cause. The treatment targets the cause rather than the symptoms:
- Jaundice that results from medication, treatment involves changing to alternative medication
- Hepatitis-induced jaundice requires antiviral or steroid medications
- Anemia-induced jaundice may be treated by boosting the amount of iron in the blood by either taking iron supplements or eating more iron-rich supplements
- Obstruction-induced jaundice can be surgically treated by removing the said obstruction
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