What is Jaundice

Essential facts about “JAUNDICE”

What is Jaundice ?
Jaundice is the yellow appearance of the eyes and skin. Jaundice itself is not a disease. It is the marker of a disease.

What is Bilirubin ?
Jaundice occurs due to increase in the level of a chemical called “Bilirubin” in the blood. Bilirubin is of two types – Unconjugated (also known as Indirect) and Conjugated (also known as Direct). Unconjugated Bilirubin is formed when ageing red blood cells breakdown under normal physiological conditions. The unconjugated bilirubin is taken up by the liver and converted into conjugated bilirubin which is then excreted into the intestines through the bile duct. The normal level of bilirubin in the blood is less than 1 mg per deciliter (1 mg/dl). A value more than this is classified as hyperbilirubinemia or jaundice.

What causes Jaundice ?
Jaundice may occur due to excess breakdown of red blood cells (known as hemolysis). It may occur due to a disease of the liver or due to blockage of bile ducts when bilirubin cannot be excreted into the intestines.

What are the common diseases that cause Jaundice ?
Hepatitis virus infection of the liver (hepatitis A, B, C, D or E virus), excess alcohol, certain drugs and medications can cause jaundice. Blockage of the bile ducts by stones, narrowing (stricture), cancers and diseases of the pancreas can also cause jaundice. Excess breakdown of red blood cells in certain diseases such as hemolytic anemia, malaria and thalessemia can also cause jaundice.

What are other symptoms that can accompany jaundice ?
Other symptoms that usually accompany jaundice are abdominal pain, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, itching of skin and generalized weakness.

How can one find out if jaundice is because of a liver disease or blockage of bile ducts ?
An ultrasound or CT scan is helpful in deciding if jaundice is because of liver disease of blockage of bile duct. Blood tests (known as Liver Function Tests) are essential to assess the degree of jaundice and cause of jaundice.

How is Jaundice treated ?
Treatment depends upon the exact cause of jaundice. Most patients with jaundice due to a recent viral infection of the liver like hepatitis A or hepatitis E recover on their own. Patients with jaundice due to blockage of the bile duct need some form of surgery. Patients with jaundice and underlying chronic liver disease or cirrhosis may not recover soon and need detailed evaluation.

What are the danger signs in Jaundice ?
Patient with jaundice who develop signs of liver failure such as swelling of feet or belly, mental confusion, or bleeding are at high risk of complications including death. Persistent high fever is also a danger sign.

Are herbal or Ayurvedic medicines useful in treating Jaundice ?
There is no scientific evidence that any form of herbal, Ayurvedic or other alternative medications are effective in treating any form of liver disease. On the contrary, such products may contain undisclosed chemicals and heavy metals that may be toxic to the body. We strictly advise patients with liver disease from using any such product without consulting their primary doctor.

Essential facts about JAUNDICE
What is Jaundice