What is Jaundice?
Jaundice is the yellow discoloration of skin and white of the eye due to high bilirubin levels. Jaundice is also called as Icterus.
What is Bilirubin & Why Does It Increase?
Bilirubin is a yellow substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. Bilirubin is excreted through the liver into the bile, to pass out of the body through the stool.
The high bilirubin levels result from the following conditions resulting in different types of jaundice.
If the RBCs break down early, the spleen gets overloaded and therefore too much bilirubin is produced which has to be excreted by the liver. The liver is not able to handle the bilirubin overload, which leads to the accumulation of unprocessed bilirubin in the bloodstream. This condition is known as hemolytic jaundice and the skin has a yellow appearance.
- Sometimes, any problem in liver cells is responsible for the accumulation of bilirubin in the bloodstream, as the liver is not able to uptake, process or excrete bilirubin.
- Neonatal jaundice occurs due to the lack of enzymes needed to process bilirubin. Jaundice due to liver injury or disease is known as hepatocellular jaundice.
- A blocked bile duct is another reason for bilirubin build-up. It is mostly caused due to gallstones. This condition is also called obstructive jaundice.
There are various factors responsible for the above conditions and bilirubin build-ups, such as alcoholism, pancreatic cancer, hepatitis and certain medications too.
Symptoms of Jaundice
The symptoms presented by a person suffering from jaundice are.
Yellow appearance of the skin, which usually starts from the head with the white of the eyes turning yellow and spreading downwards is the primary symptom of jaundice.
- Pale stool is another symptom of jaundice.
- Dark urine is also a symptom of jaundice.
- Itching all over the body also is a symptom of jaundice.
- A person suffering from jaundice also has fever.
- Weight loss is one of the symptoms of jaundice.
- Abdominal pain is an important symptom of jaundice.
- Vomiting is also a symptom of jaundice.
- Jaundice also caused a person to feel tired and fatigued.
Treatment of Jaundice
The plan of treatment of jaundice basically lies in treating the problem causing it. If the cause of bilirubin build-up is treated, then jaundice will resolve on its own.
The treatment of some of the conditions causing jaundice is as follows.
Alcohol-Related Hepatitis. If jaundice has occurred due to excess of alcohol consumption, stopping drinking treats the jaundice.
Anemia. If a lack of red blood cells is the cause of jaundice, then blood transfusion is a treatment option for treating the resulting jaundice.
Cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the last stage of chronic liver disease with various causes. Treating jaundice resulting from cirrhosis involves treating the type of liver disease present.
Drug Toxicity. If the jaundice results from the toxicity of any drug, then the offending drugs are discontinued. A medication is given to counteract the effects of the drug and this helps in treating the jaundice.
Gallstones. In this case, the treatment of jaundice might require removal of the gallbladder.
Liver Cancer. Cancer of the liver might require chemotherapy, radiation therapy as well as supportive therapy.
Newborn Jaundice. This common condition resolves on its own without any treatment. Sunlight exposure is recommended to increase vitamin D content to clear bilirubin in the newborns which helps in resolving the jaundice.
Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). Associated with ulcerative colitis, this disease can also cause jaundice. Treatment for this type of jaundice is done to manage symptoms, which include cholestyramine to reduce itching and antibiotics are prescribed too. Bile ducts are opened surgically and a stent is placed to keep them open. In severe cases, a liver transplant is done.