Jaundice is a medical term that is usually characterized by yellowish discolouration of the skin, mucous membranes, and the white part of the eye due to aggravated bilirubin levels in the blood causing hyperbilirubinemia. Considered more like an underlying symptom than a disease, jaundice can easily occur due to an inflamed liver or obstructed bile duct. Also Read: Jaundice: Learn What Causes The Disease In Children And Adults
The term ‘jaundice’ comes from the French word ‘jaun’ which means yellow. In normal conditions, the liver metabolizes and excretes the bilirubin in the form of bile. Bilirubin is defined as the by-product of the daily natural breakdown and destruction of red blood cells in the body. But in a diseased condition, if there is a blockage or disruption in the normal production or metabolism of bilirubin, it can lead to jaundice.
Jaundice can occur due to several reasons. To understand the correct form of jaundice, one should first acknowledge the problem which causes disruption in the production of bilirubin.
This kind of Jaundice can occur when there in rapid destruction and breakdown of red blood cells, generally due to haemolysis that prevents the ability of the liver to remove the excess bilirubin from the blood. This type of jaundice occurs due to diseases like Thalassemia, Spherocytosis, Malaria, Sickle cell crisis, autoimmune disorders, drugs or other toxins.
In this case, jaundice occurs due to the malfunctioning of the liver or its ability to metabolise and excrete bilirubin. It occurs due to diseases like Cirrhosis, Hepatitis, Gilbert’s syndrome, Crigler-Najjar syndrome, drugs or other toxic substances.
Also termed as Obstructive Jaundice, here, Jaundice occurs when there is an anomaly that causes an interruption in the normal drainage of conjugated bilirubin in the form of bile from the liver to the intestines. This occurs due to diseased conditions like pancreatitis, strictures of the bile duct, gallstones in the bile duct, cholangitis, congenital malformations, parasitic invasion, pregnancy, cancerous tumours in the stomach, pancreas, gall bladder or bile duct.
New-born jaundice is quite common and often considered as a normal psychological consequence as a result of the new-borns immature liver. But if it is not treated on time, the bilirubin levels might elevate and lead to other health anomalies and also cause life-threatening brain damage known as kernicterus. It mostly occurs due to psychological jaundice, breast milk jaundice, maternal foetal blood group incompatibility, cephalohematoma, and breastfeeding jaundice. Also Read: New-born Jaundice: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
The common symptoms of jaundice usually include a yellowish or brownish-orange tinge of skin, eyes, body fluids like urine and stool. Other signs and symptoms due to the causative factors include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- General debility
- Swelling of the legs and abdomen
- Weight Loss
- Skin Itching
Diagnosis And Treatment
The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up of the skin and eyes and acknowledge the patient’s past medical history to understand the type and cause of jaundice. The doctor may also perform a series of tests including:
- Liver blood tests like Bilirubin test, to measure the amount of bilirubin in your blood,
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Blood tests to check lipase levels
- Electrolyte panel
- Urine test
- Other Liver tests
- Imaging techniques like ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, Cholescintigraphy, and Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to analyse the condition of the liver and bile ducts.
- In certain chronic conditions, a biopsy is also done to check for cancerous cells.
Treatment options for jaundice basically depend upon the causative factor i.e. the underlying conditions and complications related to it. In acute cases, the patient can get well with a few medications and rest at home. Other conditions may ask for treatment with intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and blood transfusions. In severe chronic conditions, the doctor may even call for surgery.