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Liver Disease (Jaundice)

Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and the whites of the eyes caused by increased amounts of bilirubin in the blood. Jaundice is a sign of an underlying disease process.
Someone with jaundice is likely to have a yellow look to their skin and the whites of the eyes.
Many newborn babies develop jaundice, but the condition can affect people of all ages. This article looks at older children and adults.


Causes

Jaundice is caused by a build-up of bilirubin in the blood and body tissue. That build-up is often due to conditions affecting the liver, such as cirrhosis, hepatitis or gallstones.


Symptoms

  • As well as the classic yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes, someone with jaundice may also have yellowing of mucous membranes in the mouth and nose.
  • Stools can be pale in color and urine dark in color.
  • Some underlying conditions, which lead to jaundice, may feel like flu, and may also result in fever, chills, stomach pain, itching or weight-loss or be without an explanation such as a diet.

Treatments

Treatment depends on the cause of the underlying condition leading to jaundice and any potential complications related to it. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment can then be directed to address that particular condition. If you have signs of jaundice, seek medical advice.

  • Treatment may consist of expectant management (watchful waiting) at home with rest.
  • Medical treatment with intravenous fluids, medications, antibiotics or blood transfusions may be required.
  • If a drug/toxin is the cause, these must be discontinued.
  • In certain cases of newborn jaundice, exposing the baby to special colored lights (phototherapy) or exchange blood transfusions may be required to decrease elevated bilirubin levels.
  • Surgical treatment may be required.