Jaundice: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Jaundice can affect babies and senior people alike. Doctors consider it an outcome of liver issues. They have revealed that jaundice is more like a symptom of an underlying process in your body. So, this is a serious health condition which requires proper treatment.

This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatments of jaundice which can help identify its symptoms immediately.

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is a health condition in which your skin and the white part of your eyes turn yellow. In this case, body fluids may also turn yellow. The yellowness varies and depends on the bilirubin levels in your body. This substance is present in your blood. Take note that moderate quality of bilirubin in your blood leads to a yellowish tint to your skin and eyes whereas high levels can turn this yellow into brown.

Studies have concluded that liver inflammation or an obstructed bile duct can lead to this debilitating health condition. Doctors have revealed that gallbladder problems also contribute to jaundice. Jaundice in adults can be fatal if not treated on time. They need to undergo a series of tests to identify the right cause of this health disorder.

In newborns, neonatal jaundice type is common but is not considered a life-threatening disease. This type of jaundice improves over time without causing any adverse effects. It is evident that jaundice develops when your body does not process bilirubin adequately. Many studies have linked this condition with problems in the liver which is called icterus.

Bilirubin is a waste material (yellow colored) that remains in your bloodstream even after iron is eliminated. Your liver filters waste from the blood and when bilirubin reaches your liver along with other chemicals, conjugated bilirubin – another substance is produced.

Moreover, your liver also produces a digestive juice called bile. The conjugated bilirubin enters the bile before leaving your body. An excessive amount of bilirubin affects surrounding tissues, also known as, hyperbilirubinemia which leads to yellowness in your eyes and skin.

Types of Jaundice

Jaundice has three types.

  • Hemolytic jaundice
  • Obstructive jaundice
  • Hepatocellular jaundice

Ø  Hemolytic Jaundice

It is an outcome of hemolysis or breakdown of red blood cells that lead to excessive production of bilirubin.

Ø  Obstructive Jaundice

It occurs due to an obstruction in the bile duct. This condition impedes bilirubin secretion from the liver.

Ø  Hepato-cellular Jaundice

This type of jaundice occurs as a result of liver injury or disease.

Causes of Jaundice

Production of bilirubin or inability of your liver to get rid of it leads to the onset of jaundice. These conditions contribute to bilirubin accumulation in the tissues. However, there are other causes and risks associated with jaundice as well.

1. Cholestasis

This condition occurs when the liver does not excrete conjugated bilirubin and interrupts the flow of bile from the liver.

2. Acute Inflammation of the Liver

This inflammation affects the ability of your liver to secrete and conjugate bilirubin, which ultimately leads to its buildup.

3. Gilbert’s Syndrome

It is an inherited health condition that impedes regular enzymes processing that excretes bile.

4. Bile Duct Inflammation

This inflammation is severe as it alleviates removal of bilirubin and secretion of bile that leads to jaundice.

5. Hemolytic Anemia

This condition increases bilirubin production especially when red blood cells are broken down into large quantities.

6. Obstruction of Bile Duct

In this condition, your liver cannot dispose of bilirubin which results in jaundice.

Following are some rare conditions that contribute to jaundice.

1. Pseudojaundice

In this condition, the yellowing of skin and eyes results from excessive beta-carotene, not from bilirubin. Take note that this is not a dangerous type of jaundice. It usually happens from overeating melon, carrot, or pumpkin.

2. Crigler-Najjar Syndrome

This condition affects a certain enzyme that is responsible for bilirubin processing. According to health experts, this is an inherited syndrome which causes jaundice.

3. Dubin-Johnson Syndrome

This syndrome prevents secretion of conjugated bilirubin from liver cells. And, this is also an inherited type of chronic jaundice.


You can detect jaundice by observing the following symptoms.

  • Dark urine
  • Itchiness
  • Pale stools
  • A yellow tint in your skin and white part of your eyes

The symptoms of jaundice due to low bilirubin levels are

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools
  • Fever
  • Vomiting


The treatment of jaundice is always based on the underlying cause. For instance, to treat anemia-induced jaundice, your doctor may boost the content of iron in your blood. This is done by increasing intake of iron supplements or eating iron-dense foods.

Moreover, you may require steroid medications and antiviral to treat hepatitis-induced jaundice. The case of obstruction-induced jaundice needs surgical removal of the obstruction. It is true that excessive use of the pharmaceutical drug leads to the onset of jaundice which is treated by prescribing alternative medicine.

Furthermore, a physical examination is also necessary to diagnose jaundice and identify the levels of bilirubin in your bloodstream. This examination also focuses on the abdomen, firmness of liver, and risk of tumors. These tests are helpful to measure the health of the liver. A rigid liver is a sign of scarring of liver or cirrhosis whereas a rock-hard liver is a sign of cancer. The first is conducted to check the functioning of the liver. Moreover, your doctor may suggest blood tests to find the levels of bilirubin in your bloodstream; if it’s cause still remains unknown.

Ø  Complete Blood Count (CBC) or Full Blood Count (FBC)

This test reveals platelets, red blood cells, or white blood cells levels.

Ø  Hepatitis A, B, and C Tests

These tests find signs of liver infection.

Ø  Bilirubin Tests

In this test, levels of unconjugated bilirubin are compared to the levels of conjugated bilirubin to identify hemolytic jaundice.

Ø  MRI, CT, and Ultrasound Scans

Doctors usually examine the structure of your liver in case of an obstruction. This is done by using CT scan, an ultrasound scan, and MRI.


Your liver is an essential organ that plays a significant role when it comes to keeping your body healthy. Not to mention, jaundice is related to the malfunctioning of the liver.

Liver diseases are serious and proper treatment is necessary to stop the reoccurrence of liver disorders.

Therefore, to strengthen your liver, you need to make significant dietary and lifestyle changes such as eating a well-balanced diet, daily exercise, and limited consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Bottom Line

Jaundice is a debilitating health condition which requires proper treatment. Therefore, if you notice any signs of jaundice consult with your doctor immediately.


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