Find out the causes of jaundice

Find out the causes of jaundice

Last Reviewed : 12/29/2020
Find out the causes of jaundice

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:

  1. Medical Causes:
  1. Hepatitis: Inflammation and infection of the liver caused by bacterial infection especially leptospirosis, viral infection, drug induced or toxin induced (alcohol)
  2. Viral infections: Hepatitis A, B, and C virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes infection and infectious mononucleosis
  3. Infestation of parasites: Entamoeba histolytica, and hydatid cyst disease
  4. Drug abuse/narcotic abuse
  5. Chronic hepatitis
  6. G-6PD deficiency
  7. Autoimmune hepatitis
  8. Hepatocellular carcinoma.


  1. Surgical Causes:
  1. Gall stones
  2. Cholecystitis
  3. Malignant biliary obstruction
  4. Chronic pancreatitis
  5. Stricture in Common bile duct
  6. Carcinoma head of pancreas
  7. Ampullary carcinoma
  8. Primary biliary cirrhosis
  9. Bile duct cancer
  10. Gall bladder cancer.
  1. Familial causes:
  1. Crigler–Najjar syndrome,
  2.  Gilbert's syndrome,
  3. Dubin–Johnson syndrome,
  4. Rotor's syndrome,
  5. Benign recurrent intrahepatic cholestasis,
  6. Wilson's disease,
  7. Hemochromatosis,
  8. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency,
  9. Hereditary spherocytosis,
  10. Cystic fibrosis.
  1. Drugs:
  1. Acetaminophen
  2. Penicillin,
  3. Oral contraceptives pills
  4. Steroids.


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:

  1. Infections like malaria
  2. Blood disorders: sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, hereditary spherocytosis, G-6PD deficiency etc.

ii. Hepatic jaundice: All the medical conditions that arise in the liver which cause jaundice. The most common cause is hepatitis.

  1. 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:

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