Jaundice (Icterus)

What is jaundice?

Jaundice or icterus occurs if the bilirubin level exceeds 2.5-3 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). Bilirubin is a yellow-orange bile pigment. It makes your skin, eyes, and mouth yellowish.

Kernicterus occurs if severe jaundice goes untreated. It is a type of brain damage that can result from high levels of bilirubin in the blood. It can cause athetoid cerebral palsy and hearing loss. Kernicterus causes problems with vision, teeth and sometimes can cause intellectual disabilities. Early detection and management of jaundice can prevent kernicterus.

How bad is my jaundice?

Mild: ULN – 1.5 x ULN if baseline was normal; > 1.0 – 1.5 x baseline if baseline was abnormal

Moderate: 1.5 – 3.0 x ULN if baseline was normal; >1.5 – 3.0 x baseline if baseline was abnormal

Severe: 3.0 – 10.0 x ULN if baseline was normal; >3.0 – 10.0 x baseline if baseline was abnormal

How to manage mild jaundice or icterus ?
  • Maintain adequate hydration by drinking fluids, and rest as needed.
  • Take medications only as instructed and prescribed by a health care practitioner.
  • Avoid medications, herbs, or supplements which may cause detrimental side effects. Consult a health care practitioner for advice.
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Certain dietary restrictions
  • If symptoms worsen or if any new symptoms arise, consult a health care practitioner.
How to manage moderate and severe jaundice?

See your doctor right away if your skin turns yellow. Your doctor may suggest blood tests to check for a high bilirubin level.

What causes jaundice?
  • Reabsorption of a large hematoma (a collection of clotted or partially clotted blood under the skin).
  • Hemolytic anemias.
  • Viruses, including Hepatitis A, chronic Hepatitis B and C, and Epstein-Barr virus infection (infectious mononucleosis).
  • Alcohol.
  • Autoimmune disorders.
  • Rare genetic metabolic defects.
  • Medicines (acetaminophen toxicity, penicillins, oral contraceptives, chlorpromazine and estrogenic or anabolic steroids).

After the production of bilirubin,

  • Gallstones.
  • Inflammation (swelling) of the gallbladder.
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Pancreatic tumor

Sometimes. it occurs with liver disease if you have:

  • Chronic hepatitis or inflammation of the liver.
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum (a type of skin disease).
  • Acute hepatitis A, B or C.
  • Polyarthralgias (inflammation of the joints)

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