Jaundice is a condition which gives a yellowish tinge to the skin and the white part of the eye (Sclerae). It is also known as icterus. Excess of bilirubin in the blood is the main cause of jaundice. Due to this condition, your body fluids may also turn yellow. The levels of bilirubin determines the color of the skin as well as the sclerae. Yellow skin and sclerae appears with mild levels of bilirubin whereas brown color appears with high levels.
The yellowing of the sclerae and the skin is due to the yellow colored pigment bilirubin in this condition. Bilirubin is a waste product in the blood stream after the removal of hemoglobin from red blood cells. Excessive levels of this pigment causes it to leak into surrounding tissues thereby saturating these tissues with it. Liver’s main function is to remove the wastes like bilirubin from the blood. In the liver, other wastes attach to bilirubin and forms conjugated bilirubin where as the freely circulating bilirubin in blood is called unconjugated bilirubin. The liver secretes conjugated bilirubin into the bile and later it is excreted. In fact, the brown color of the feces is due to a product of bilirubin.
Most often jaundice is due to an underlying disease. This disease may prevent the liver from excreting bilirubin or may cause over production of the pigment. In either cases, there is deposition of this pigment in tissues. Some of the common conditions that cause Jaundice are below:
- Bile duct inflammation – This may prevent bile secretion and as a result excretion of bilirubin thereby causing jaundice.
- Hemolytic anemia – Breaking down of large quantities of red blood cells results in the increase of bilirubin production.
- Acute inflammation of the liver – results in the build up of bilirubin by impairing the ability of liver to conjugate and secrete this pigment.
- Cholestasis – causes interruption in the flow of bile juice from the liver. This in turn prevents the excretion of conjugated bilirubin present in bile and therefore remains in the liver.
- Gilbert’s syndrome – It’s an inherited condition which impairs the enzymes that process the excretion of bile.
- Bile duct obstruction – stops the liver from excreting bilirubin.
Some of the common jaundice symptoms include the following:
- Yellowish tinge to the skin and the white part of the eye
- Weight loss
- Pain in the abdomen
- Dark urine
- Paler than normal stools