Despite abysmal record maintenance in most states of the country, it is unambiguous that the incidence of Jaundice has shown a steady and alarming increase. Death toll due to Jaundice has doubled over the past 2 decades. The statistics of the study conducted by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) show that jaundice is a major public health problem in India. An annual incidence of 2.76 per 1000 population were stated and confirmed by physicians.

So, what is jaundice? Icterus commonly known as Jaundice is a condition in which there is yellowish discolouration of the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. To have the public a better understanding of this condition, people need to be educated of its cause, risk factors, signs and symptoms, complications, treatment and prevention.

First, let us note the cause. Jaundice is caused by buildup of bilirubin in the blood, which is formed when haemoglobin is destructed in the spleen and liver.

Identification of the predisposing factors in the management of this condition is important. A number of risk factors in the occurrence of this disease are to be noted and considered such as cancer of the liver or pancreas, infections – viral or bacterial, with the most common being Hepatitis A, B & E infection. People with pre-existing medical conditions such as gallstones, TB, congenital diseases or any liver related diseases are likely to develop jaundice as well. In new born babies, though it is not fatal, jaundice commonly occurs during the first 5 days of life.

While the condition itself is difficult to manage and treat, the signs and symptoms of jaundice can be easily noticed. They include fever, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal distension, leg swelling, blood vomiting, black coloured stools, breathing difficulty, itching and pale stools.

Complications of jaundice can be identified with drowsiness, altered behaviour, disorientation, decreased urine output, infection, pancreatitis , foetal death in uterus or maternal death in complicated jaundice during pregnancy.

Treatment of Jaundice depends on understanding the cause of the elevated bilirubin level in the body. This condition is medically managed for most cases with antiviral or steroid medications. While, conditions with gallstones, liver or pancreatic cancer can be cured by surgical intervention, which can be either dealt with laparoscopic or an open-surgical procedure. In complicated cases, the patient may need to undergo a liver transplantation, which will be the best and final curative option.

How Does One Diagnose Jaundice?

A simple blood test showing elevated bilirubin levels in the blood can confirm that a person has jaundice. The physician will then examine the patient and may advise for imaging tests like an ultrasound, MRI, or CT Abdomen, if they suspect any obstruction in the liver.

Prevention

For prevention of jaundice or hepatitis infections, the following points should be taken into serious considerations.

•        Avoiding excessive alcohol intake

•        Clean drinking water & food

•        Balanced diet

•        Regular ANC for pregnant ladies

•        Practicing safe sexual intercourse

•        Vaccination against hepatitis A and B

•        Avoid native medications

•        Liver function regularly tested for patients taking anti TB drugs.

 

If you are having any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should consult your physician immediately.