What causes jaundice?
When red blood cells die, the heme in their hemoglobin is converted to bilirubin in the spleen. The bilirubin is processed by the liver, enters bile and is eventually excreted through feces. Once hemoglobin is in the red cells of the blood, it circulates for the life span of those cells. The hemoglobin that is released when the cells die is turned into bilirubin. If for any reason
the RBCs die at a faster rate than usual, bilirubin can accumulate in the blood and cause jaundice.
Once hemoglobin is in the red cells of the blood, it circulates for the life span of those cells. The hemoglobin that is released when the cells die is turned into bilirubin. If for any reason the RBCs die at a faster rate than usual, bilirubin can accumulate in the blood and cause jaundice.
Pre-hepatic (or hemolytic) jaundice is caused by anything which causes an increased rate of haemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells). In tropical countries, malaria can cause jaundice in this manner. Certain genetic diseases, such as glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency can lead to increase red cell lysis and therefore hemolyic jaundice. Defects in bilirubin metabolism also present as jaundice.
Liver diseases of all kinds threaten the organ's ability to keep up with bilirubin processing. Starvation, circulating infections, certain medications, hepatitis, and cirrhosis can all cause hepatic jaundice, as can certain hereditary defects of liver chemistry, including Gilbert's syndrome and Crigler-Najjar syndrome. Hepatic causes include acute hepatitis, hepatotoxicity and alcoholic liver disease. Less common causes include primary biliary cirrhosis, Gilbert's syndrome and metastatic carcinoma. Jaundice commonly seen in the newborn baby is another example of hepatic jaundice.
Post-hepatic forms of jaundice include the jaundices caused by failure of soluble bilirubin to reach the intestines after it has left the liver. These disorders are called obstructive jaundices. The most common cause of obstructive jaundice is the presence of gallstones in the ducts of the biliary system. Other causes have to do with birth defects and infections that damage the bile ducts; drugs; infections; cancers; and physical injury. Some drugs--and pregnancy on rare occasions--simply cause the bile in the ducts to stop flowing. Post-hepatic (or obstructive) jaundice, also called cholestasis, is caused by an interruption to the drainage of bile in the biliary system. The most common causes are gallstones in the common bile duct and pancreatic cancer in the head of the pancreas. Other causes include strictures of the common bile duct, ductal carcinoma, pancreatitis and pancreatic pseudocysts. A rare cause of obstructive jaundice is Mirizzi's syndrome. The presence of pale stools suggests an obstructive or post-hepatic cause as normal feces get their colour from bile pigments.
More information on jaundice
What is jaundice? - Jaundice is Yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes (sclerae), caused by blockage of the intestines. A sign that the liver or bile duct system is not working normally.
What is bilirubin? - Bilirubin is a chemical breakdown product of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is broken down to heme and globin. High level of bilirubin can cause neonatal jaundice, a yellow skin color.
What causes jaundice? - Jaundice is caused by excessive amounts of bilirubin. Jaundice usually is caused by liver dysfunction or blockage of the bile ducts leading from the liver to the small bowel.
What're hemolytic disorders? - The process of red blood cell destruction is called hemolysis, and the diseases that cause it are called hemolytic disorders.
What are the symptoms of jaundice? - Jaundice is the yellow staining of the skin and sclerae (the whites of the eyes) by abnormally high blood levels of the bile pigment, bilirubin.
What conditions can be associated with jaundice? - Jaundice is a symptom of many disorders, which can include viral hepatitis, alcoholism, poisoning, abnormal breakdown of red blood cells or gallbladder disease.
How is jaundice diagnosed? - The diagnosis of jaundice is suggested by the appearance of the patient's eyes and complexion. Disease in the biliary system can be identified by imaging techniques.
What's newborn jaundice? - Normal newborn jaundice is the result of two conditions occurring at the same time - a pre-hepatic and a hepatic source of excess bilirubin.
What're symptoms of newborn jaundice? - Most infants with jaundice show no physical symptoms as the liver starts maturing. In the newborn, jaundice first becomes visible on the face.
What causes newborn baby jaundice? - Breast feeding mothers often experience persisting jaundice or jaundice without blood group incompatibilities. Blood incompatibility is a common cause.
How is jaundice in newborn babies diagnosed? - When a newborn baby shows signs of jaundice, the doctor does a physical examination and blood tests to help determine the cause of the jaundice.
What's the treatment for infant jaundice? - Treatment for infant jaundice is usually unnecessary. It is important to keep the baby well-hydrated and encourage frequent bowel movements by feeding frequently.
What is neonatal jaundice? - Neonatal jaundice (or hyperbilirubinemia) is a higher-than-normal level of bilirubin in the blood. Neonatal jaundice is usually harmless.
What causes neonatal jaundice? - Hyperbilirubinemia can cause jaundice to develop within a few days after birth. Hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice can also be the result of other diseases or conditions.
What are the symptoms of neonatal jaundice? - The signs and symptoms of neonatal jaundice will depend largely on the cause. Extremely high levels of bilirubin in infants may cause kernicterus.
How is neonatal jaundice diagnosed? - The initial diagnosis of hyperbilirubinemia is based on the appearance of jaundice at physical examination.
What's the treatment for neonatal jaundice? - Most cases of newborn jaundice resolve without medical treatment within two to three weeks. Neonatal jaundice is treated by means of phototherapy.
What's obstructive jaundice? - Obstructive jaundice caused by obstruction of the bile ducts. Common causes of obstructive jaundice include gallstones and tumors of the pancreas or bile duct.
What's breastfeeding jaundice? - Breast feeding jaundice is that breast-fed babies with physiologic jaundice generally reach higher levels of total bilirubin compared to formula-fed babies.
What's breast milk jaundice? - Breastmilk jaundice is believed to be caused by a hormone in breastmilk that interferes with the natural elimination of bilirubin.