Jaundice is a term used to describe a yellowish tinge to the skin and sclerae (the white part of the eye) and is caused due to excess of bilirubin in the blood, when body is not able to process bilirubin properly. The color of the skin and sclerae depends on levels of bilirubin, mild elevated levels display yellow skin and sclerae, while elevated levels give brown colour. Jaundice is also known as icterus.
Jaundice is related to liver function. It is important that people maintain the health of this liver by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and not consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.
Bilirubin is a yellow-colored waste material that remains in the bloodstream after metabolism of Iron. The liver filters waste out from the blood. When bilirubin reaches the liver, the bilirubin turns into conjugated bilirubin. Conjugated bilirubin gets released into bile, and thus is eliminated from the body. This conjugated bilirubin gives feces its brown color.
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If there is too much bilirubin, it is known hyperbilirubinemia, and it gives the yellow color to the skin and eyes, and the condition is termed Jaundice or Icterus.
Acute inflammation of the liver: This reduces ability of the liver to conjugate and secrete bilirubin.
Inflammation of the bile duct: This may prevent the secretion of bile and thus, removal of bilirubin from body, causing jaundice.
Obstruction of the bile duct: Preventing liver from disposing of bilirubin.
Hemolytic anemia: In hemolytic anemia, large numbers of red blood cells are broken down, causing an increase in bilirubin in serum, which becomes difficult for the liver to process.
Gilbert’s syndrome: A genetic condition, in which ability of enzymes to process the excretion of bile is hampered.
Cholestasis: The bile containing conjugated bilirubin remains in the liver instead of being excreted, as a flow of bile from the liver is interrupted.
Crigler-Najjar syndrome: This is a rare inherited condition that impairs the specific enzyme responsible for processing bilirubin.
Dubin-Johnson syndrome: This is also a rare inherited form of chronic jaundice that prevents conjugated bilirubin from being secreted from of the liver.
Pseudojaundice: In this, the yellow pigmentation of the skin results from an excess of beta-carotene, not from an excess of bilirubin. Pseudojaundice usually arises from eating large quantities of carrot, pumpkin, or melon and is harmless.
Itching – The itching accompanying jaundice can sometimes be so intense that may cause patients to scratch their skin raw, have insomnia, or, in extreme cases, they may even have thoughts of suicide.
Complications if happen, it is usually because of the underlying problem, not due to jaundice.