Jaundice

Jaundice is an abnormal condition in which the body fluids and tissues, particularly the skin and eyes, take on a yellowish color as a result of an excess of bilirubin.

During the normal breakdown of old red blood cells, their hemoglobin is converted into bilirubin. Normally the bilirubin is removed from the bloodstream by the liver and eliminated from the body in the bile, which passes from the liver into the intestines.

There are several conditions that may interrupt the elimination of bilirubin from the blood and cause jaundice. Hemolytic jaundice is caused by excessive disintegration of erythrocytes; it occurs in hemolytic and other types of anemia and in some infectious diseases such as malaria. Another type of jaundice results from obstruction in or about the liver; usually a stone or stricture of the bile duct blocks the passage of bile from the liver into the intestines. A third type of jaundice occurs when the liver cells are damaged by diseases such as hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver; the damaged liver is unable to remove bilirubin from the blood. Treatment of jaundice is directed to the underlying cause. Many instances of obstructive jaundice may require surgery.

 


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Jaundice

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular  

(Probably) jaundiced eyes



Counter Indicators
Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular  

Absence of jaundiced eyes



Symptoms - Skin - General  

(Possibly) jaundiced skin




Risk factors for Jaundice

Infections  


 


Organ Health  


 

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs when the diseased liver does not process enough bilirubin.



 


Tumors, Malignant  



Jaundice suggests the following may be present

Laboratory Test Needed  


Organ Health  


Tumors, Malignant  



Recommendations for Jaundice

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs  

Test/Monitor Liver Function

Serum bilirubin, liver enzymes (ALT and AST) and alkaline phosphatase are routine lab tests used to assist in determining the cause of jaundice.



Key

Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
Highly recommended

Glossary

Jaundice

Yellow discoloration of the skin, whites of the eyes and excreta as a result of an excess of the pigment bilirubin in the bloodstream.

Red Blood Cell

Any of the hemoglobin-containing cells that carry oxygen to the tissues and are responsible for the red color of blood.

Hemoglobin

The oxygen-carrying protein of the blood found in red blood cells.

Bile

A bitter, yellow-green secretion of the liver. Bile is stored in the gallbladder and is released when fat enters the first part of the small intestine (duodenum) in order to aid digestion.

Anemia

A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.

Stricture

An abnormal narrowing of a bodily passage caused by, for example, scar tissue.

Hepatitis

Inflammation of the liver usually resulting in jaundice (yellowing of the skin), loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, abnormal liver function, clay-colored stools, and dark urine. May be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, parasitic infestation, alcohol, drugs, toxins or transfusion of incompatible blood. Can be life-threatening. Severe hepatitis may lead to cirrhosis and chronic liver dysfunction.

Cirrhosis

A long-term disease in which the liver becomes covered with fiber-like tissue. This causes the liver tissue to break down and become filled with fat. All functions of the liver then decrease, including the production of glucose, processing drugs and alcohol, and vitamin absorption. Stomach and bowel function, and the making of hormones are also affected.

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