Jaundice in Adults

  • Medical Author:
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

Take the Liver Disease Quiz

What causes jaundice in adults?

Jaundice in adults is caused by various medical conditions that affect the normal metabolism or excretion of bilirubin. Bilirubin is mostly formed from the daily breakdown and destruction of red blood cells in the bloodstream, which release hemoglobin as they rupture. The heme portion of this hemoglobin molecule is then converted into bilirubin, which is transported in the bloodstream to the liver for further metabolism and excretion. In the liver, the bilirubin is conjugated (made more water soluble), and is excreted into the gallbladder (where it is stored) and into the intestines. In the intestines, a portion of the bilirubin is excreted in the feces, while some is metabolized by the intestinal bacteria and excreted in the urine.

Jaundice occurs if there is a dysfunction of the normal metabolism or excretion of bilirubin. This disruption in the metabolism or excretion of bilirubin can occur at various stages, and it is therefore useful to classify the different causes of jaundice based on the where the dysfunction occurs. The causes of jaundice are generally classified as pre-hepatic (the problem arises before secretion to the liver), hepatic (the problem arises within the liver), and post-hepatic (the problem arises after bilirubin is excreted from the liver).

Picture of the liver and where it is located in the abdomen
Picture of the liver and where it is located in the abdomen
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/4/2015
Liver Disease Quiz: Test Your Medical IQ

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Jaundice in Adults - Experience

    Please share your experience of jaundice as an adult.

    Post View 5 Comments
  • Jaundice in Adults - Causes

    What was the cause of your case of jaundice?

    Post
  • Jaundice in Adults - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you experience with jaundice?

    Post
  • Jaundice in Adults - Treatment

    What treatments did you undergo for your case of jaundice?

    Post View 14 Comments
  • Jaundice in Adults - Complications

    What complications did you experience with jaundice?

    Post View 2 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors