Jaundice in Adults
(Hyperbilirubinemia)

  • 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.

What is the treatment for jaundice in adults?

The treatment for jaundice depends entirely on the underlying cause. Once a diagnosis has been established, the appropriate course of treatment can then be initiated. Certain patients will require hospitalization, whereas others may be managed as outpatients at home.

  • In certain individuals with jaundice, the treatment will consist of supportive care and can be managed at home. For example, most cases of mild viral hepatitis can be managed at home with watchful waiting and close monitoring by your doctor (expectant management). Novel medications for hepatitis C now can offer a cure for this condition.
  • Alcohol cessation is necessary in patients with cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, or acute pancreatitis secondary to alcohol use.
  • Jaundice caused by drugs/medications/toxins requires discontinuation of the offending agent. In cases of intentional or unintentional acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose, the antidote N-acetylcysteine (Mucomyst) may be required.
  • Various medications may be used to treat the conditions leading to jaundice, such as steroids in the treatment of some autoimmune disorders. Certain patients with cirrhosis, for example, may require treatment with diuretics and lactulose.
  • Antibiotics may be required for infectious causes of jaundice, or for the complications associated with certain conditions leading to jaundice (for example, cholangitis).
  • Blood transfusions may be required in individuals with anemia from hemolysis or as a result of bleeding.
  • Individuals with cancer leading to jaundice will require consultation with an oncologist, and the treatment will vary depending on the type and extent (staging) of the cancer.
  • Surgery and various invasive procedures may be required for certain patients with jaundice. For example, certain patients with gallstones may require surgery. Other individuals with liver failure/cirrhosis may require a liver transplant.

What are the complications of jaundice in adults?

The type of complication and the severity of complications vary with the underlying cause leading to jaundice. Certain individuals will not suffer any long-term after effects and will have a full recovery, while for others the appearance of jaundice will be the first indication of a life-threatening condition. A few of the potential complications include:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2016
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