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Recurrent Jaundice

Recurrent jaundice is a condition whereby the patient has intermittent normalization of bilirubin. For the jaundice to be categorized as recurrent, the patient usually experiences more than one episode of yellowing discoloration of the whites of the eyes and skin. This also includes increased serum bilirubin levels.

Jaundice in general is a liver-related condition that causes yellowing of the whites of the eyes and the skin, in addition to other symptoms that may not be quite obvious. It 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.

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
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Flu-like symptoms

Diagnosis of Recurrent Jaundice

In most cases, recurrent jaundice is diagnosed by checking for signs of liver disease such as palmar erythema, bruising of the skin, and spider angiomas (abnormal collection of blood vessels near the surface of the skin).

Causes Recurrent Jaundice

Some of the common causes of recurrent jaundice include:

  • Gilbert’s syndrome (GS), a liver disorder in which the liver is unable to properly process bilirubin
  • Hemolysis – This is the damage of the red blood cells which release hemoglobin into the blood stream
  • Deficiency in vitamin B12
  • Alcoholic-induced jaundice
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA)
  • Wilson’s disease (WD)
  • Ineffective erythropoiesis
  • Sarcoidosis due to fluctuating disease activity
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis
  • Cholestasis – A condition whereby the flow of bile from the liver is interrupted. The bile containing conjugated bilirubin remains in the liver instead of being excreted.

Treatment of Recurrent 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

Prevention of Recurrent Jaundice

It is considered a bit difficult to prevent all cases of jaundice. This is because the condition can be as a result of a wide range of conditions or circumstances. However, individuals can take certain precautions to minimize the risk of developing recurrent jaundice. These includes:

  • Moderating alcohol consumption by ensuring you do not exceed the recommended daily amount (RDA)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle
  • Getting vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • Avoiding high-risk behaviors such as intravenous drug use or unprotected intimacy
  • Avoiding potentially contaminated food/water and maintaining good hygiene
  • Avoiding medications and toxins which can cause hemolysis or directly damage the liver

Complications of Recurrent Jaundice

Some of the complications that occur as a result of jaundice include:

  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach pain