Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin level. Usually, it is associated with tea-colored urine.

Yellow or even orange discoloration of the skin without the involvement of the whites of the eyes is caused by too much intake of food high in carotene such as carrot. This is not jaundice.

There are many causes of jaundice.

For instance, anything that causes an increased rate of red blood cells break down (hemolysis) would cause jaundice. This is often called “pre-hepatic” jaundice. Some people may be born with a genetic disorder and they get jaundice easily, without significant liver problem.

Jaundice can be caused by liver inflammation (hepatitis). Common causes of hepatitis include viral infection, drug-induced liver injury, alcoholic hepatitis. Other liver diseases that may cause jaundice in this category include autoimmune hepatitis and Wilson Disease.

In severe cases of liver injury, jaundice may be a sign of liver failure. This needs to be assessed by a doctor trained in this area.

The liver produces bile which flows through bile ducts to the small intestine. Obstruction to the bile flow can also cause jaundice. This obstruction can be due to stones in the bile duct or even a cancerous growth.

The specialist that evaluates jaundice is called a gastroenterologist. The subspecialty within gastroenterology that deals with the liver is called a hepatologist. All jaundice patients need proper evaluation to determine the cause of the jaundice.

Evaluation of jaundice would typically involve blood test and imaging of the liver. Some imaging modalities include ultrasound, CT scan and MRI.

Treatment of jaundice depends on the cause of jaundice.

Category
Symptoms

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