Jaundice – Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis Tests

jaundice

Jaundice

It is also known as icterus.

“Jaundice” is the medical term that describes yellowing of the skin and eyes. Jaundice itself is not a disease, but it is a symptom of several possible underlying illnesses. Jaundice forms when there is too much bilirubin in your blood. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is created by the breakdown of dead red blood cells in the liver. Normally, the liver gets rid of bilirubin along with old red blood cells.

Jaundice may indicate a serious problem with the function of your red blood cells, liver, gallbladder, or pancreas.

Infant jaundice Or Neonatal Jaundice

Infant jaundice is a common condition, particularly in babies born before 38 weeks’ gestation (preterm babies) and some breast-fed babies. Infant jaundice usually occurs because a baby’s liver isn’t mature enough to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream. In some babies, an underlying disease may cause infant jaundice.

Causes Jaundice

Jaundice occurs when there is too much of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is created when in the body when old red blood cells carrying oxygen to all parts of our body breakdown. This breakdown of the red blood cells is a normal process. The red blood cells have a lifespan of 120 days and new red blood cells are manufactured to replace the dying ones. The bilirubin which gets created when the old red blood cells break down, circulate through the bloodstream and travels to the liver.  From the liver, it is excreted into the bile duct, and stored in the gallbladder. From the gallbladder, the bilirubin is released in small quantities, as bile, into the small intestine. Here,  it helps to digest fats and then is eventually excreted from the body with stool.

When the liver is not metabolizing bilirubin the way it is supposed to, jaundice occurs.

Pre-Hepatic (liver) Causes of Jaundice

Jaundice caused during the pre-hepatic phase is due to the excessive destruction (hemolysis) of red blood cells from various conditions. This rapid increase in bilirubin levels in the bloodstream overwhelms the liver’s capability to properly metabolize the bilirubin, and consequently the levels of unconjugated bilirubin increase. Conditions which can lead to an increase in the hemolysis of red blood cells include:

  • Malaria
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Hereditary spherocytosis
  • Thalassemia
  • Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6PD)
  • Drugs or other toxins
  • Autoimmune disorders

Hepatic (liver) Causes of Jaundice

Jaundice caused during the hepatic phase can arise from abnormalities in the metabolism and/or excretion of bilirubin. This can lead to an increase in both unconjugated and/or conjugated bilirubin levels. Conditions with a hepatic cause of jaundice include:

  • Acute or chronic hepatitis(commonly viral [Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E] or alcohol related)
  • Cirrhosis (caused by various conditions)
  • Drugs or other toxins
  • Crigler-Najjar syndrome
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Gilbert’s syndrome
  • Liver cancer

Post-Hepatic (liver) Causes of Jaundice

Jaundice from a post-hepatic cause arises from a disruption (an obstruction) in the normal drainage and excretion of conjugated bilirubin in the form of bile from the liver into the intestine. This leads to increased levels of conjugated bilirubin in the bloodstream. Conditions that can cause post-hepatic jaundice include

  • Gallstones
  • Cancer (pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer and bile duct cancer)
  • Strictures of the bile ducts
  • Cholangitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Parasites (for example, liver flukes)

Symptoms of Jaundice in Adults

As already mentioned, jaundice is not a disease, but rather a visible sign of an underlying disease process. Individuals with jaundice will have a yellow discoloration of the skin to varying degrees, and may also exhibit yellowing of the mucous membranes and of the white of the eyes. However, depending on the underlying cause of jaundice, individuals may experience different symptoms. Some individuals may have very few, if any, symptoms at all, while others may experience more severe and pronounced symptoms. Individuals with jaundice may experience any of the following signs and symptoms

  • pale-colored stools,
  • dark-colored urine,
  • skin itching
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rectal bleeding
  • diarrhea
  • fever and chills
  • weakness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • confusion
  • abdominal pain
  • headache
  • swelling of the legs
  • swelling and distension of the abdomen due to the accumulation of fluid (ascites)

Risk Factors for Jaundice in Adults

The risk factors for developing jaundice vary based upon the underlying cause.

  • Certain individuals with hereditary conditions (for example, thalassemia or hereditary spherocytosis) are at an increased risk of developing jaundice from hemolysis.
  • Individuals who consume alcohol heavily are at an increased risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis, pancreatitis, and cirrhosis leading to jaundice.
  • People who are at an increased risk of exposure to the different types of viral hepatitis (for example, hepatitis B and hepatitis C) are also at risk of developing jaundice at the time of infection or subsequently if liver disease occurs or if liver cancer develops later.

Diagnosis & Tests For Jaundice in Adults

The presence of jaundice requires a comprehensive medical evaluation to determine the cause. Initially, your doctor will take a detailed history of your illness and perform a physical exam, which can sometimes determine the cause of the jaundice. Initial blood testing will also be prescribed,

Depending on the results of initial blood tests, further studies may be needed to help diagnose the underlying disease process. In certain cases, imaging studies will need to be obtained in order to evaluate for any abnormalities of the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. These imaging studies may include abdominal ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging(MRI), and cholescintigraphy (HIDA scan).

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All material copyright healthcare nt sickcare. 2017 – 2018. Terms and conditions & Privacy Policy of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: This article inspired from various online articles and own offline experiences. The content meant for public awareness and regular post to clientele of healthcare nt sickcare.

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