What is jaundice?
Jaundice is a health problem that causes your skin and /or the white part of your eyes to turn yellow. It is caused by too much bilirubin in your body. Bilirubin is an orange-yellow substance that is made when your body breaks down red blood cells. Your liver takes bilirubin out of your blood and changes it to “conjugated bilirubin.” This bilirubin goes through the bile duct and mixes with your stool to leave your body. Your bilirubin level can be checked with a blood test.
What causes jaundice?
Jaundice can happen if there is extra bilirubin being made or it is not being removed from the body normally. Some health problems that can cause jaundice are:
- Hepatitis A, B, and C can cause the liver to be not able to take bilirubin out of the blood.
- Alcoholism can also cause the liver to not work well.
- Some medicines, such as acetaminophen, can affect how well the liver works.
- A block in the bile duct can stop bilirubin from leaving the liver. This can be caused by a tumor, gall stones, or swelling of the gall bladder.
- Hemolytic anemia is a health issue where too many red blood cells are being broken down. This makes too much bilirubin for the liver to handle.
What symptoms does jaundice cause?
Jaundice may cause:
- Yellow or brownish-colored skin.
- Yellow coloring to the white part of your eyes.
- Dark-colored urine.
- Light-colored stools.
- Itchy skin.
- You may also have abdominal (belly) pain, upset belly, throwing up, or fever.
How is jaundice treated?
The treatment for jaundice is to treat whatever is causing it. For example, if the bile duct is blocked and causing bilirubin to build up in the body, a stent may be used to open the block. You may need blood tests or imaging tests (radiology x-rays or scans) to see what is causing your jaundice. Your treatment will be specific to your health issue.
If you have very itchy skin, your provider can give you medicine to help with the itching.
When should you call your provider?
If you have any symptoms of jaundice, you should call your provider so they can figure out the cause.
Cleveland Clinic. 2018. Adult Jaundice. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15367-adult-jaundice
Merk Manual. 2021. Jaundice in Adults. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/liver-and-gallbladder-disorders/manifestations-of-liver-disease/jaundice-in-adults
WebMD. 2021. What is a bilirubin test? https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/bilirubin-test