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Causes of Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the eyes, mucous membranes or the skin. Bilirubin produces yellow pigment. It is the byproduct of old red blood cells. Jaundice is a symptom of an underlying health condition. One suffers from jaundice when there are many old RBC in the blood. When many RBC retire at the same time, it becomes a tedious task for liver to handle and yellow pigment builds up in the body. Jaundice is also known as yellow skin and icterus.

Jaundice can be caused by many disease processes. It is useful for a person to understand the various causes of jaundice by identifying the problems which interrupt the normal bilirubin metabolism and/or execution. The following lines give a brief description of the causes of jaundice in adults and children.

Causes of Jaundice in Adults:

Following are the causes of jaundice in adults:

Usually large amounts of blood flow through the liver every minute, which is thought as the chemical processing plant of the body. In the process of hemolysis, liver breaks down the inefficient and old red blood cells. This produces large amounts of bilirubin. Also, liver manufactures other bile components.

Bile, a greenish-yellow fluid is secreted by liver. It contains bile salts, cholesterol and wate products like bilirubin. The bilirubin passes through bile ducts and is stored under the gallbladder directly. It is then gradually released into intestine. This assists in food digestion and exits body through stool.

Excess bilirubin can cause jaundice:

It is must to eliminate bile from the body as it is produced. The process can go wrong in three basic ways:

• Liver might have got temporarily or permanently damaged. This reduces its ability to break down bilirubin and push it to gallbladder.
• The bile ducts or gallbladder might have been blocked, resulting in accumulation of bilirubin in intestine. Then bilirubin will move again into liver and then to bloodstream.
• Any condition which results in rapid destruction of RBC can produce more bilirubin for the liver to handle. Thus, the excess is moved to bloodstream.

Due to poor liver functionality:
• Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E can trigger temporary liver inflammation. Hepatitis B and C can cause lifelong and chronic inflammation.
• In some people, medication-induced hepatitis can cause jaundice. This includes acetaminophen, oral contraceptives, testosterone, nitro furation, statins (for example rosuvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin), amiodarone, methotrexate, erythromycin, alcohol and other medications.
• In autoimmune hepatitis, immune system attacks the liver cells itself. It is more common in people with autoimmune diseases like ulcerative colitis, diabetes, thyroid disease or lupus. Another autoimmune disease is primary biliary cirrhosis. It involves bile ducts inflammation.
• Excessive and long-term consumption of alcohol results in alcoholic liver disease.
• Gilbert’s syndrome is a pretty common condition and affects nearly 2% of population. Small defects in the metabolism of bilirubin can cause jaundice during infection, hunger, exercise or stress.
Obstruction causes jaundice:
• Gallstones in gallbladder can block the bile ducts and can prevent bilirubin and bile from reaching intestine. In some cases, bile ducts may become inflamed and infected.
• Pressure in the abdomen closes the ducts between intestine and gallbladder or between gallbladder and liver. During pregnancy, jaundice is common.
• Tumors in gallbladder, pancreas or liver are sometimes responsible for obstruction.

Hemolysis:
• Hemolytic anemia can be an autoimmune disease.
• Malaria destroys RBC and results in jaundice.

Causes of Jaundice in Newborn:
Excess bilirubin:
Excess bilirubin can cause jaundice in infants. When used RBC is broken down, bilirubin is produced. Usually, bilirubin is filtered from bloodstream and is released into intestine. When the baby is in mother’s womb, mother’s liver helps in removing bilirubin from the baby’s blood. Infant’s liver is immature and often cannot remove bilirubin, resulting in excess formation of bilirubin. This is termed as physiologic jaundice and typically appears on second or third day of the life.

Other causes:
An underlying condition can cause jaundice in infants. In such cases, jaundice appears earlier or later than the physiologic jaundice. Health conditions which cause jaundice are as follows:

• Malfunctioning of liver
• Bacterial or viral infections
• Hemorrhage or internal bleeding
• An infection in the baby’s blood
• Enzyme deficiency
• Incompatibility between the baby’s blood and mother’s blood
• Abnormality of baby’s RBC

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