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Jaundice- Causes, Symptoms, Complications and Prevention

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Jaundice- Causes, Symptoms, Complications and Prevention
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Reading Time: 4 minutes


Summary: 30 Sec Read

  • Introduction
    • Definition of Jaundice
    • Importance of Understanding Jaundice
  • Risk Factors
    • Liver Disorders
    • Gallbladder or bile duct disorders
    • Blood Disorders, etc.
  • Symptoms
    • Physical Symptoms (Yellowing of skin and eyes, dark urine, pale stools)
    • General Symptoms (Fatigue, abdominal discomfort, itching, appetite loss)
  • Causes
    • Liver Conditions (Hepatitis, cirrhosis, etc.)
    • Hemolytic Anemias (Sickle cell anemia, thalassemia)
    • Bile Duct Obstruction (Gallstones, tumors)
    • Medications
    • Newborn Jaundice
  • Complications if Untreated on Time
    • Liver Damage
    • Kernicterus (in newborns)
    • Worsening Underlying Conditions
    • Pregnancy Risks
  • Diagnosis
    • Blood Tests
    • Imaging (Ultrasound, CT, MRI)
    • Liver Biopsy
  • Treatment Options
    • Medical
    • Endoscopic
    • Surgery
  • Home Remedies
    • Dietary Changes
    • Hydration
    • Herbal Remedies
    • Rest
  • When to Consult a Doctor
    • Appearance of Jaundice
    • Persistent Symptoms
    • Newborn Jaundice Guidelines
  • When to Get Emergency Help
    • Severe Symptoms
    • Newborns with Severe Jaundice
  • Related Conditions
    • Hepatitis
    • Cirrhosis
    • Gallstones
    • Liver Cancer
    • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Prevention
    • Vaccination
    • Healthy Lifestyle
    • Safe Practices
    • Managing Underlying Conditions
    • Prenatal Care
    • Promoting Breastfeeding for Newborns


Jaundice is a medical condition characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes. It’s a common symptom of various underlying health issues, primarily affecting the liver’s ability to process bilirubin. It can be indicative of an underlying health issue affecting the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts. In this article, we will learn about its symptoms, causes, complications, diagnosis, treatment and preventive measures.

Types of Jaundice

There are primarily two types of jaundice:

a. Medical Jaundice:

This type occurs as a result of certain medical conditions that affect the liver’s ability to process bilirubin effectively.

Hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cirrhosis are some examples of conditions that can lead to medical jaundice.

b. Surgical Jaundice:

Surgical jaundice is caused by an obstruction in the bile ducts, which prevents the proper flow of bile.

Gallstones, tumors, or strictures in the bile ducts are common culprits behind this type of jaundice.

Risk Factors

While jaundice can affect individuals of all ages, certain factors can increase the likelihood of its occurrence.

Some common risk factors include:

  1. Liver diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis
  2. Gallstones or other obstructions in the bile ducts
  3. Blood disorders, like hemolytic anemia
  4. Infections, particularly those affecting the liver
  5. Alcohol abuse
  6. Certain medications that can impact liver function


  1. Yellowing of the skin, sclera (whites of the eyes), and mucous membranes.
  2. Dark urine and pale stools.
  3. Fatigue and weakness.
  4. Abdominal pain and discomfort.
  5. Itchy skin.
  6. Loss of appetite and weight loss.
  7. Nausea and vomiting.


  1. Liver Conditions:

  2. Hemolytic Anemias:

    • Conditions like sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
  3. Obstruction of Bile Ducts:

  4. Medications:

    • Some drugs can affect liver function.
  5. Newborn Jaundice:

    • Common in newborns due to an immature liver.

Complications if Untreated on Time

  1. Liver Damage: Prolonged jaundice can lead to liver damage or failure.
  2. Kernicterus (in newborns): Severe jaundice can cause brain damage in infants.
  3. Underlying Conditions: Untreated jaundice may worsen the underlying cause.
  4. Complications During Pregnancy: Can pose risks for both the mother and the baby.


To determine the cause and severity of jaundice, healthcare providers use several diagnostic tests, which may include:

  1. Blood Tests: These assess bilirubin levels and liver function.
  2. Liver Function Test (LFT): Measures various enzymes and proteins produced by the liver.
  3. Ultrasonography (USG): Uses sound waves to create images of the liver and bile ducts.
  4. Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: Provides detailed cross-sectional images of the liver and surrounding structures.
  5. Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP): Offers detailed images of the bile ducts.
  6. Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS): Combines endoscopy with ultrasound to visualize the pancreas and bile ducts.

Treatment Options

The treatment of jaundice depends on its underlying cause and severity.

The following are some common treatment options:

a. Medical Treatment:

For jaundice caused by liver diseases, viral infections, or certain medications, medical treatment may involve managing the underlying condition, providing supportive care, and addressing complications.

b. Endoscopic Treatment:

In cases of surgical jaundice caused by bile duct obstructions, endoscopic procedures like Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may be performed to remove the blockage.

c. Surgery:

Surgical intervention is necessary for gallbladder stones, tumors, or strictures.

Home Remedies

  1. Dietary Changes: A low-fat, low-protein, and low-sugar diet may help.
  2. Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is crucial.
  3. Herbal Remedies: Some herbs like milk thistle may support liver health.
  4. Rest: Ample rest is essential for recovery.

When to Consult a Doctor

  1. If you or your child develop yellowing of the skin or eyes.
  2. If symptoms like abdominal pain, dark urine, or pale stools persist.
  3. For newborns, jaundice should be evaluated within a few days of birth.

When to Get Emergency Help

  1. Severe Symptoms: Seek immediate medical attention for severe jaundice symptoms.
  2. Newborns: If jaundice is severe, appears within the first 24 hours, or if the baby is feeding poorly.

Related Conditions

  1. Hepatitis: An inflammation of the liver, often viral.
  2. Cirrhosis: Scarring of the liver tissue.
  3. Gallstones: Hardened deposits in the gallbladder.
  4. Liver Cancer: Malignant tumors in the liver.
  5. Pancreatic Cancer: Affecting the pancreas and nearby organs.


  1. Vaccination: Get vaccinated against hepatitis if not immune.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle: Limit alcohol consumption and maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Safe Practices: Avoid sharing needles or practicing unprotected sex.
  4. Manage Underlying Conditions: Control diabetes and other chronic diseases.
  5. Prenatal Care: Proper prenatal care can reduce the risk of newborn jaundice.
  6. Breastfeeding: Promote breastfeeding for newborns, as it helps with bilirubin elimination.


Understanding jaundice, its causes, symptoms, and seeking timely medical attention can make a significant difference in managing and preventing complications associated with this condition.

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