Learn About Jaundice

What is the definition of Jaundice?

Jaundice is a yellow color of the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes. The yellow coloring comes from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells. Jaundice can be a symptom of several health problems.

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What are the alternative names for Jaundice?

Conditions associated with jaundice; Yellow skin and eyes; Skin - yellow; Icterus; Eyes - yellow; Yellow jaundice

What are the causes of Jaundice?

A small number of red blood cells in your body die each day, and are replaced by new ones. The liver removes the old blood cells. This creates bilirubin. The liver helps break down bilirubin so that it can be removed by the body through the stool.

Jaundice can occur when too much bilirubin builds up in the body.

Jaundice can occur if:

  • Too many red blood cells are dying or breaking down and going to the liver.
  • The liver is overloaded or damaged.
  • The bilirubin from the liver is unable to properly move into the digestive tract.

Jaundice is often a sign of a problem with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. Things that can cause jaundice include:

  • Infections, most commonly viral
  • Use of certain drugs
  • Cancer of the liver, bile ducts or pancreas
  • Blood disorders, gallstones, birth defects and a number of other medical conditions
What are the symptoms of Jaundice?

Jaundice may appear suddenly or develop slowly over time. Symptoms of jaundice commonly include:

  • Yellow skin and the white part of the eyes (sclera) -- when jaundice is more severe, these areas may look brown
  • Yellow color inside the mouth
  • Dark or brown-colored urine
  • Pale or clay-colored stools
  • Itching (pruritis) usually occurs with jaundice

Note: If your skin is yellow and the whites of your eyes are not yellow, you may not have jaundice. Your skin can turn a yellow-to-orange color if you eat a lot of beta carotene, the orange pigment in carrots.

Other symptoms depend on the disorder causing the jaundice:

  • Cancers may produce no symptoms, or there may be fatigue, weight loss, or other symptoms.
  • Hepatitis may produce nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or other symptoms.
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What are the current treatments for Jaundice?

Treatment depends on the cause of the jaundice.

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When should I contact a medical professional for Jaundice?

Contact your provider if you develop jaundice.

Jaundiced infant
Cirrhosis of the liver
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What are the latest Jaundice Clinical Trials?
Bile Duct Drainage After ERCP Failure: EUS-guided Biliary Versus Percutaneous Transhepatic Drainage

Summary: The vast majority of patients with distal biliary, pancreatic head or uncinate process cancer have jaundice caused by distal malignant obstruction (DMO) of the common bile duct. Biliary drainage by Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) with trans-papillary stent placement is the treatment of choice. ERCP has a failure rate ranging from 12 - 25 percent. Percutaneous transhepatic bil...

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URICA-II; a Longitudinal Study to Analyse the Correlation Between Urinary Carbonic Anhydrase (CAI), a Marker of Haemolysis, and Bilirubin

Summary: In newborns, intravascular hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells inside the blood vessels) can range from mild, as part of the physiological (normal) turnover of red blood cells, to severe in cases such as jaundice (an increase in bilirubin levels) Early biomarkers of haemolysis would improve neonatology (newborn) practice by identifying at-risk patients, particularly if the assay is simple,...

What are the Latest Advances for Jaundice?
Oral cholangioscopy for biliary system diseases.
Severe refractory warm autoimmune haemolytic anaemia after the SARS-CoV-2 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (BNT162b2 mRNA) managed with emergency splenectomy and complement inhibition with eculizumab.
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Non-syndromic bile duct paucity and non-IgE cow's milk allergy: a case report of challenging nutritional management and maltodextrin intolerance.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: April 19, 2021
Published By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Fargo MV, Grogan SP, Saquil A. Evaluation of jaundice in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2017;95(3):164-168. PMID: 28145671 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28145671/.

Korenblat KM, Berk PD. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver tests. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 138.

Lidofsky SD. Jaundice. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 21.

Taylor TA, Wheatley MA. Jaundice. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 25.