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Jaundice: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Home > Blogs > Jaundice: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Jaundice: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Gastro Sciences | by Dr. Partha Pratim Bose | Published on 15/04/2023



Overview: What Is Jaundice?

Jaundice is a medical condition that affects the liver and causes yellowing of the skin and eyes due to the buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is formed when the liver breaks down old red blood cells. Jaundice can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, and therefore, it is essential to consult a doctor if you are experiencing any of its symptoms.

What Are The Types Of Jaundice?

Jaundice can be categorised into three types, depending on the root cause. Jaundice can either be caused due to the breaking down of blood cells or by draining waste from the blood. The three main types of jaundice are -

  • Pre-hepatic jaundice - This type of jaundice occurs when there is an excess of bilirubin in the blood due to the increased breakdown of red blood cells. Causes of pre-hepatic jaundice include hemolytic anaemia, sickle cell anaemia, and thalassemia.
  • Hepatic jaundice - This type of jaundice occurs when there is a problem with the liver, such as liver damage or disease, that prevents it from processing bilirubin properly. Causes of hepatic jaundice include hepatitis, cirrhosis, and alcoholic liver disease.
  • Post-hepatic jaundice - This type of jaundice occurs when there is a blockage in the bile ducts, which prevents the bilirubin from being excreted from the body. Causes of post-hepatic jaundice include gallstones, pancreatic cancer, and biliary stricture.

What Are The Symptoms Of Jaundice?

Jaundice symptoms can vary depending on the severity and existence of any other medical condition. However, doctors associate the most apparent sign of jaundice with the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Other symptoms may include - 

  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools
  • Itching
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

What Causes Jaundice?

Jaundice can be caused by various medical conditions that affect the liver or bile ducts. Some common causes of jaundice include - 

  • Hepatitis - Inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection or alcohol abuse.
  • Liver cirrhosis - Chronic liver disease characterised by scarring of the liver tissue, leading to liver failure.
  • Bile duct obstruction - Blockage of the bile ducts due to gallstones, tumours, or inflammation.
  • Hemolytic anaemia - A condition in which the red blood cells are destroyed faster than they can be replaced, leading to a buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream.
  • Gilbert's syndrome - A genetic condition that causes a mild increase in bilirubin levels, leading to jaundice.

How Is Jaundice Diagnosed?

Jaundice diagnosis involves a combination of physical examination and symptom analysis to indicate the severity of the condition. Further, the doctor can recommend diagnostic tests such as blood tests to measure the level of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Other diagnostic tests may include:

  • Liver function tests - These tests measure the levels of enzymes and proteins produced by the liver.
  • Ultrasound - A non-invasive imaging test that uses sound waves to create images of the liver and bile ducts.
  • CT scan - A diagnostic imaging test that uses X-rays and computer technology to create detailed images of the liver and bile ducts.

What Are The Treatment Options For Jaundice?

The treatment of jaundice depends on the underlying cause of the condition. If the jaundice is caused by an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection. If the jaundice is caused by liver damage, treatment may involve medications to manage symptoms and reduce inflammation. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove gallstones or repair a bile duct obstruction.

In cases of severe jaundice, hospitalization may be required for close monitoring and treatment. During hospitalization, the patient may be given intravenous fluids and nutrients to support the liver's function and prevent complications.

Conclusion:

Jaundice is a medical condition that can be caused by various underlying medical conditions. If you experience symptoms of jaundice, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment of jaundice can prevent complications and improve outcomes.

FAQs

What to eat in jaundice?

Here are some foods and drinks which can help with jaundice - 

  • Water
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee and herbal tea
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Lean protein 

What level of jaundice is dangerous?

The level of bilirubin in the blood is considered dangerous if the score is 20. This level of jaundice requires immediate medical attention.

Can I eat chocolate in jaundice?

No, you cannot eat chocolate or chocolate-flavoured ice creams during jaundice as they contain raw milk.

Is jaundice communicable?

No, jaundice is not communicable but certain underlying conditions can result in the condition progressing over time.