The yellowish discoloration of the skin as well as the sclera, or the whites of the eyes in layman’s terms, is called jaundice. Sometimes you may hear a doctor say icterus, but rest assured that he or she is still referring to jaundice.
In this article, you will learn some of the most important things about jaundice, including most especially some of its most common causes. So don’t stop reading. Later on, feel free to share this on your various social media sites to get your family members and friends introduced to jaundice, too!
Not a Disease
While it may look like it, jaundice is not a disease. It is not a medical condition involving the skin and whites of the eyes, although they are the parts of the body that seem to be solely affected by it.
Jaundice is actually just a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Doctors say that whenever jaundice strikes, most likely it is due to a problem with the liver. That’s because it is the liver that is responsible for removing a waste material circulating in the blood called bilirubin, which can be blamed for the development of jaundice.
By the way, jaundice is actually very common in newborns. In fact, experts say that about 60 percent of all infants have jaundice, and it’s for the fact that their red blood cells are rapidly being replaced, which is something that can cause excessive amounts of bilirubin to accumulate in the bodies of newborns.
Understanding the Culprit
Bilirubin is actually a material that is produced when iron is removed from the blood or whenever red blood cells are destroyed, just like what’s mentioned earlier. In other words, it’s something that is not needed by your body as it serves no function. It is a waste product.
It is the liver that is responsible for getting rid of bilirubin. When it does so effectively, bilirubin is expelled via the colon. You can tell that the liver is successful in doing so if your stools are brownish in color. Yes, it is bilirubin that is giving your stools their characteristic coloration.
Why It Can Collect
Inefficient elimination of bilirubin in the bloodstream can be blamed on a poorly-functioning liver. There are so many issues with the liver that can cause the said vital organ to work poorly. Some of them include:
Alcoholic liver disease
Cirrhosis of the liver
Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E
It is also possible for bilirubin to stay in the body because of other problems. You can have jaundice if your bile duct is inflamed or blocked. You may also experience jaundice if you suffer from hemolytic anemia. There are so many other causes of jaundice, some of them rare like Crigler-Najjar syndrome and Dubin-Johnson syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms
Clearly, one of the most noticeable signs of jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and sclera, or what many people refer to as the whites of the eyes. It’s not unlikely for some of the bodily fluids to become yellowish as well! Someone who has jaundice may also experience skin itchiness, and he or she may notice pale-colored stools.
Some other signs and symptoms that may come with jaundice are abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss, fever and vomiting. The ones experienced may vary depending on the root cause of jaundice.
Because jaundice is just a symptom of a medical condition, it is not the one treated but rather what’s causing it. So in other words, it is the problem that causes jaundice that is tackled, not jaundice. Once the root cause is dealt with properly, then jaundice will resolve on its own.