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Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, is the yellow staining of the skin and sclerae (the whites of the eyes) by abnormally high blood levels of the bile pigment, bilirubin. The yellowing extends to other tissues and body fluids and also may turn the urine dark. Jaundice, also known as icterus, is a term used to describe a yellowish tinge to the skin and sclerae (the white part of the eye) that is caused by an excess of bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia). Body fluids may also be yellow. The color of the skin and sclerae varies depending on levels of bilirubin; mildly elevated levels display yellow skin and sclerae, while highly elevated levels display brown. In this article, we will discuss what jaundice is, why it happens, and how it is diagnosed and treated
Jaundice most often occurs as a result of an underlying disorder that either causes overproduction of bilirubin or prevents the liver from disposing of it, both of which result in bilirubin being deposited in tissues. Some underlying conditions that may cause jaundice are: Acute inflammation of the liver - may impair the ability of the liver to conjugate and secrete bilirubin, resulting in a buildup. Inflammation of the bile duct - may prevent the secretion of bile and removal of bilirubin, causing jaundice.


Yellow tinge to the skin and the whites of the eyes, normally starting at the head and spreading down the body Pruritis (itchiness) Fatigue Abdominal pain - typically indicates a blockage of the bile duct Weight loss Vomiting Fever Dark urine
Obstruction of the bile duct - prevents the liver from disposing of bilirubin. Hemolytic anemia - production of bilirubin increases when large quantities of red blood cells are broken down. Gilbert's syndrome - an inherited condition that impairs the ability of enzymes to process the excretion of bile. Cholestasis - a condition where the flow of bile from the liver is interrupted. The bile containing conjugated bilirubin remains in the liver instead of being excreted. More rare conditions that may cause jaundice include: Crigler-Najjar syndrome - an inherited condition that impairs the specific enzyme responsible for processing bilirubin Dubin-Johnson syndrome - an inherited form of chronic jaundice that prevents conjugated bilirubin from being secreted out of the liver's cells Pseudojaundice - a harmless form of jaundice in which the yellowing of the skin results from an excess of beta-carotene, not from an excess of bilirubin; usually from eating lots of carrots, pumpkin, or melon
There are three main types of jaundice: Hepatocellular jaundice - occurs as a result of liver disease or injury Hemolytic jaundice - occurs as a result of hemolysis (an accelerated breakdown of red blood cells) leading to an increase in production of bilirubin Obstructive jaundice - occurs as a result of an obstruction in the bile duct (a system of tubes that carries bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine), which prevents bilirubin from leaving the liver Jaundice, not to be confused with infant jaundice, is usually a sign of an underlying disorder.