Jaundice is a term that is used to describe a yellowish colour tone to the skin and the whites of the eye. Body fluids may also become yellow. The color of the skin and whites of the eyes varies depending on levels of bilirubin. Bilirubin is basically a waste material that is found in the blood. Moderate levels of bilirubin lead to a yellow color, while very high levels will appear brown. However, jaundice can happen to people of all ages and is normally the result of an underlying condition. Jaundice normally indicates a problem of the liver or bile duct. Underlying conditions that may cause jaundice include:
- Acute inflammation of the liver: This may impair the ability of the liver to conjugate and secrete bilirubin, resulting in a buildup.
- Inflammation of the bile duct: This can prevent the secretion of bile and removal of bilirubin, causing jaundice.
- Obstruction of the bile duct: This prevents the liver from disposing of bilirubin.
- Hemolytic anemia: The production of bilirubin increases when large quantities of red blood cells are broken down.
- Gilbert’s syndrome: This is an inherited condition that impairs the ability of enzymes to process the excretion of bile.
- Cholestasis: This interrupts the flow of bile from the liver. The bile containing conjugated bilirubin remains in the liver instead of being excreted.
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