Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the skin, whites of the eyes, and mucous membranes. It is caused by increased levels of bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia). Bilirubin is produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice may mean the liver or bile system is not working normally.

CAUSES

The most common causes include:

  • Viral hepatitis.

  • Gallstones.

  • Excess use of alcohol.

  • Liver disease.

  • Certain cancers.

SYMPTOMS

  • Yellow color to the skin, whites of the eyes, or mucous membranes.

  • Dark brown colored urine.

  • Stomach pain.

  • Light or clay colored stool.

  • Itchy skin.

DIAGNOSIS

  • Your history will be taken along with a physical exam.

  • Urine and blood tests.

  • Abdominal ultrasound.

  • CT scans.

  • MRI.

  • Liver biopsy if the liver disease is suspected.

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the cause or related to the treatment of an underlying condition. For example, if jaundice is caused by gallstones, the stones or gallbladder may need to be removed. Other treatments may include:

  • Rest.

  • Stopping a certain medicine if it is causing the jaundice.

  • Giving fluid through the vein (IV fluids).

  • Surgery  (removing gallstones, cancers).

Some conditions that cause jaundice can be fatal if not treated.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Rest.

  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.

  • Avoid all alcoholic drinks.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for nausea, vomiting, itching, pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • If jaundice is due to viral hepatitis or an infection:

  • Avoid close contact with people.

  • Avoid preparing food for others.

  • Avoid sharing utensils with others.

  • Wash your hands often.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments with your caregiver.

  • Use skin lotions to relieve itching.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have increased pain.

  • You have repeated vomiting.

  • You become dehydrated.

  • You have a fever or persistent symptoms for more than 72 hours.

  • You have a fever and your symptoms suddenly get worse.

  • You become weak or confused.

  • You develop a severe headache.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.