What is jaundice?

Jaundice is a disorder that causes the skin and whites of the eyes to turn yellow. It is not a disease per se, but is a symptom that something is going on. It occurs when there is an excess of bilirubin. However, there are other causes why the skin may become yellowish. To distinguish it from jaundice can be done because in these other causes there is no yellowing of the conjunctiva of the eyes.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of jaundice is yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes. In some cases, other symptoms such as choluria (very dark-colored urine) and acholia (very light-colored stools due to the absence of bilirubin pigments) may occur.

Causes of jaundice or why it occurs

Jaundice occurs when there is an excess of bilirubin. This is a waste product of hemoglobin, which is the main content of red blood cells. This bilirubin is transformed in the liver and transported through the biliary tract to the small intestine and eliminated in the feces. Therefore, jaundice occurs when there is an increase in the rate of red blood cell destruction, in liver disease and in diseases in which there is an obstruction of the bile duct.

Can it be prevented?

There are some measures to prevent jaundice such as:

  • Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
  • Getting vaccinated against hepatitis
  • Avoiding certain medications
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What is the treatment?

In the adult person, jaundice should be considered only as a symptom of a disease. Therefore, treatment should not be for jaundice, but will depend on the disease causing the jaundice.

However, in newborn infants, if bilirubin levels are very high, discontinuation of breastfeeding, phototherapy and, if necessary, blood exchange are indicated.