Jaundice is a condition resulting in yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes, and inside of the mouth due to the excessive levels of bilirubin. Jaundice may be caused by several different disease processes. It is helpful to understand the different causes of jaundice by identifying the problems that disrupt the normal bilirubin metabolism and/or excretion.
Bilirubin is a yellow-coloured by-product of the body’s metabolism of haemoglobin which is excreted in bile and urine and is responsible for brown pigmentation. When the levels of this substance are too high, the excess spills out into tissues in the area causing yellowing of the tissues. It is often accompanied by liver diseases such as hepatitis or liver cancer. The major symptoms include yellow pigmentation, pale stool, dark urine, itching, kernicterus (type of brain damage), gall bladder stones and liver flukes (parasitic worms).
Forms of Jaundice:
It is categorized into three different forms depending on the underlying cause of bilirubin build-up as pre-hepatic jaundice, hepatocellular jaundice and post-hepatic jaundice.
1) Pre-hepatic jaundice is marked by an increase in the level of unconjugated bilirubin in the blood, while lacks the same in urine.
2) Hepatocellular jaundice has conjugated bilirubin present in the urine. The plasma albumin level is reduced and globulins are raised in response to an increase in antibodies reducing clotting power. It is also marked by increased levels of enzymes alkaline phosphatise, alanine transferase and aspartate transferase causing liver dysfunction.
3) Post-hepatic jaundice the blood level of conjugated bilirubin is raised and is also marked by increased levels of enzymes alkaline phosphatise, alanine transferase and aspartate transferase.