Today, you will learn about a very common disease. Jaundice is usually associated with symptoms, such as fatigue, abnormal pain, weight loss, vomiting, fever, pale stools, and dark urine. Jaundice is the yellow discoloration of skin and mucous membranes due to the accumulation of bile pigments in the blood and their deposition in body tissues. Bile pigments are produced by the breakdown of blood products like hemoglobin. When liver is damaged, bile pigments may not be metabolized properly, leading to their accumulation in blood and body tissues. Sometimes, when there is excess production of bile pigments, liver may not be able to metabolize in a timely fashion which may also lead to jaundice.
What are the Causes of Jaundice?
The causes of jaundice are discussed below1:
Hepatitis: Inflammation and infection of the liver caused by bacterial infection especially leptospirosis, viral infection, drug induced or toxin induced (alcohol)
Viral infections: Hepatitis A, B, and C virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes infection and infectious mononucleosis
Infestation of parasites: Entamoeba histolytica, and hydatid cyst disease
Drug abuse/narcotic abuse
Malignant biliary obstruction
Stricture in Common bile duct
Carcinoma head of pancreas
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Bile duct cancer
Gall bladder cancer.
Benign recurrent intrahepatic cholestasis,
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency,
Oral contraceptives pills
Classes of Jaundice
Jaundice can be classified into 3 types depending upon the cause. Let’s shed light on them briefly.
i. Prehepatic cause: In this type, liver is absolutely normal. There is excess of hemoglobin breakdown (hemolysis), which liver cannot handle, leading to accumulation of bile pigments. The causes include:
ii. Hepatic jaundice: All the medical conditions that arise in the liver which cause jaundice. The most common cause is hepatitis.
Post hepatic jaundice: All the surgical conditions of the biliary tract (gall bladder and bile duct) that cause post hepatic jaundice.
In this guide, you have learned the symptoms and causes of jaundice. So when you observe yellow tinge of your skin, dark urine, itchiness and whites of the eyes, the symptoms become abundantly clearer. The good news is that the condition is treatable, so you should not panic. The fact is, how the disease is treated depends mostly on the root cause. Instead of resorting to self-medication, you should consult a health expert. On the other hand, you can prevent jaundice by eating a balanced diet and keeping your consumption alcohol level minimal. Lastly, health is wealth – so contact a health expert whenever you sense these symptoms.
Stillman AE. Jaundice. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 87. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK413/