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What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is a yellow color in the skin, the mucous membranes, or the eyes. The yellow pigment is from bilirubin. Bilirubin is a byproduct of old red blood cells. Blirubin is the yellow color you see when a bruise is healing.

Jaundice occurs when there are too many old red blood cells in the blood. 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 is also called icterus and yellow skin.

What Causes Jaundice?

There are several causes of jaundice. Jaundice may result from various diseases or conditions that affect the liver.

Some common causes of jaundice are:

Types of Jaundice

  • Newborn Jaundice
    • Most babies have some jaundice during the first week of life. The ordeal of birth can send many red blood cells to an early retirement, and babies’ livers are often unprepared for the load. Before Mom’s milk comes in and stooling begins in earnest, bilirubin accumulates more easily. Jaundice is even more common in premature babies.
  • Pathologic Jaundice
    • Pathologic jaundice is the term used jaundice presents a health risk. Pathologic jaundice can occur in children or adults. It arises for many reasons, including blood incompatibilities, blood diseases, genetic syndromes, hepatitis, cirrhosis, bile duct blockage, other liver diseases, infections, or medications.

Can Jaundice be Treated?

Yes. Treatment of jaundice will depend on the cause.

Complications of Jaundice

If left untreated, jaundice can worsen and affect other parts of the body. In newborns, untreated jaundice can cause kernicterus.

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