What is Jaundice?
Adult jaundice, a gastroenterology disease, is a condition where the skin, mucous membranes, and sclera (white portion of the eyes) turn yellow. High levels of bilirubin, a yellow-orange bile pigment, cause jaundice in adults and kids.
Jaundice is a condition that signals a problem with the liver and bile ducts. In jaundice, when the liver isn’t functioning properly, it leads to the build-up of bilirubin in the blood which is a waste material.
Moderate levels of bilirubin cause the skin and eyes to turn yellow while higher levels can also cause the colour to change from yellow to green. Jaundice can be reported in people of all ages and is often the signal of an underlying medical issue that needs attention. Newborns and the elderly have the highest risk of developing jaundice.
What Causes Jaundice?
Jaundice is often the result of a problem caused during any of the three phases of bilirubin production. Before bilirubin production, unconjugated jaundice is caused by increased levels of bilirubin. Here are the reasons:
Before Bilirubin Production:
- Reabsorption of a large haematoma (a bunch of clotted blood under the skin).
- Haemolytic anaemia, a condition where the blood cells are destroyed and removed from the bloodstream even before the end of their normal lifespan.
During Bilirubin Production:
- Hepatitis A, B & C viruses
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Metabolic defects
- Alcohol consumption
- Autoimmune disorders
- Consumption of medicines like acetaminophen toxicity, oral contraceptives, penicillin, chlorpromazine, and estrogenic steroids
After Bilirubin Production:
- Gallbladder inflammation
- Pancreatic tumour
- Gallbladder cancer
What are the Symptoms of Jaundice?
Sometimes, the affected person may be having jaundice but the symptoms may go unnoticed for a long time. The severity of jaundice symptoms depends on how fast the disease progressed and the underlying medical condition. A short-term jaundice case, that feels more like an infection, usually has the following symptoms:
- Chills & rigours
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain & discomfort
- Flu-like symptoms
- Change in the skin colour & yellowish discolouration
- Dark-coloured urine
- Clay-coloured stool
How is Jaundice Diagnosed?
Most doctors often diagnose liver disease in patients by looking for the relevant signs and symptoms including:
- Skin bruising
- Palmar erythema
- Spider angiomas (unusual blood vessel collection near skin’s surface)
Doctors advise patients showing jaundice signs and symptoms to undergo a urine examination. If the urinalysis test shows a positive sign for bilirubin, it indicates the patient has conjugated jaundice. The urine test results findings are then followed up with blood tests like Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Bilirubin levels. Your doctor will also order ultrasonography and do a physical exam to check the tenderness of the liver.
How is Jaundice Treated?
Jaundice is a severe problem in newborns which requires treatment and medical attention. However, adult jaundice doesn’t require any treatment eh symptomatic treatment is followed. If the symptoms in adults are bothersome, like itching, abdominal pain or fever, it is managed with appropriate medicine.
Jaundice treatment usually comes with certain side effects and complications listed below:
- Stomach pain
- Upset stomach
To get relieved of the Jaundice symptoms caused by hepatitis, you should take care of the following:
- Take adequate rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- Be aware of & avoid medicines that affect the liver
Your doctor may advise you to undergo surgery if jaundice is caused by gallstones, a blocked bile duct, and pancreatic cancer.
How to Prevent Jaundice?
Since jaundice is caused by multiple factors, it is challenging to provide specific prevention measures. However, there are some general health and wellness tips that ensure a healthy and functioning liver and prevent or delay the chances of a liver problem like jaundice. Here are those jaundice prevention tips:
- Avoid getting hepatitis infection to zero down the chances of getting a liver problem like jaundice. The key is to be aware of what causes hepatitis and how to prevent it.
- Alcohol consumption is the first thing that threats your liver health straight away. The first step towards achieving and maintaining a healthy liver is to stop alcohol consumption if you already do. If you are a teetotaller, don’t start consuming t or keep it within the limits.
- Similarly, maintaining healthy body weight is extremely important as obesity and a higher BMI leads to several health issues including affecting your liver.
- Keep your cholesterol levels in check as it has a direct impact on your liver. Keep your good cholesterol high and take appropriate measures to lower your bad cholesterol.
- To avoid jaundice due to hepatitis infection, make sure you practice safe sex by using condoms and sticking to a single partner when it comes to having a sexual relationship. Avoid unprotected sex and always use an unused latex condom.
Jaundice causes yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes. Jaundice indicates an abnormality of an underlying health issue that involves the liver. It occurs when the liver stops working optimally in processing the waste from the blood.
Speak to your medical care provider for jaundice treatment immediately if you have the signs and symptoms to avoid worsening the liver function.