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What is Jaundice?

jaundiced eye

What is jaundice exactly? Jaundice causes the skin and membranes to discolour and turn yellow. Very often, the whites of eye also turn yellow. This is caused by the bilirubin pigment that is produced by the liver. Usually, bilirubin is excreted in bile, mixing with what is in a person’s intestines and being passed through a person’s gut. However, this passage can be blocked, leading to increased levels of bilirubin in the blood, which leads to jaundice.

Who Gets Jaundice?
Jaundice in newborns is very common. In fact, some 60% of babies get jaundice disease. This is usually only a temporary condition and the jaundice causes here are the body still being immature. If it occurs in adults, however, it is generally a sign of a liver problem.

Signs and Symptoms of Jaundice
If you blanch your skin by applying pressure, for instance on the nose, you could get a good indication of whether or not you are jaundiced. A doctor can confirm jaundice with a blood test. Besides jaundice symptoms of turning slightly yellow, people also often experience itchy skin. If jaundice is very severe, it can cause brain damage, which is most common in very young babies. This can be detected by poor feeding and sleepiness. Urine may also turn very dark and faeces can turn very pale. It is also possible to find signs of anaemia. Depending on the cause of jaundice, there may be other jaundice symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors of Jaundice
The build-up of bilirubin is the main cause of jaundice. This can be a result of haemolytic anaemia or a poorly functioning liver. Hepatitis may also be the cause of jaundice, as can certain prescription medications. Alcohol abuse is another common reason for jaundice. Should blood tests determine that the liver is functioning properly, it is likely that the body is malfunctioning in terms of removing bile and that this is causing jaundice disease. This would lead to an obstruction, which in turn forces bilirubin into the bloodstream.

In babies, jaundice causes are mainly the blood cells breaking down. This is common if there was an inherited deficiency in enzymes, or if there is rhesus incompatibility. If this is the case, the baby would develop jaundice almost immediately. Generally, however, jaundice is newborns is more common in the first few days of life and is simply because the body does not yet know how to deal with bilirubin. Naturally, it can also be caused by infections or by an underactive thyroid gland.

Treatment and Recovery of Jaundice
Depending on the cause of jaundice treatment will be provided. In young babies, UV light jaundice treatment is often sufficient to relieve the signs of jaundice. This has some side effects, including diarrhoea and skin rashes. If the bilirubin reach dangerous levels, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Because jaundice in adults is generally caused by underlying infections, it is often more important to identify that infection and treat that, rather than focusing on the signs of jaundice. For instance, if the cause is hepatitis, patients need to receive antiviral medication for that. If the issue is an underlying alcohol problems, patients need to face their alcohol problems. Treatment of jaundice in adults is generally more about treating the cause, rather than jaundice itself. Exposure to sunlight, however, is always a good way to at least relieve some of the symptoms, both in adults and children.

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