Newborn Jaundice and Kernicterus
Newborn jaundice and kernicterus facts
What is jaundice in newborns?
Jaundice is the yellow color seen in the skin of many newborns. Jaundice happens when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the baby's blood. During pregnancy, the mother's liver removes bilirubin for the baby, but after birth the baby's liver must remove the bilirubin. In some babies, the liver might not be developed enough to efficiently get rid of bilirubin. When too much bilirubin builds up in a new baby's body, the skin and whites of the eyes might look yellow. This yellow coloring is called jaundice.
What is kernicterus?
When severe jaundice goes untreated for too long, it can cause a condition called kernicterus. Kernicterus is a type of brain damage that can result from high levels of bilirubin in a baby's blood. It can cause athetoid cerebral palsy and hearing loss. Kernicterus also causes problems with vision and teeth and sometimes can cause intellectual disabilities. Early detection and management of jaundice can prevent kernicterus.
What are the signs and symptoms of jaundice in newborns?
Jaundice usually appears first on the face and then moves to the chest, belly, arms, and legs as bilirubin levels get higher. The whites of the eyes can also look yellow. Jaundice can be harder to see in babies with darker skin color. The baby's doctor or nurse can test how much bilirubin is in the baby's blood.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/27/2013
Viewers share their comments
Kernicterus (Newborn Jaundice) - Treatment Question: How was your baby's jaundice treated?
Kernicterus (Newborn Jaundice) - Symptoms and Signs Question: What symptoms and signs did your baby experience with kernicterus?
Kernicterus (Newborn Jaundice) - Causes Question: What was the cause of your newborn baby's jaundice?
Newborn Jaundice - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of your baby' jaundice?
Newborn Jaundice - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your baby's jaundice?
Kernicterus - Experience Question: Please share your experience with your baby's kernicterus.
Newborn Jaundice - Risk Factors Question: What risk factors did your baby have for newborn jaundice?
Newborn Jaundice - Experience Question: Please share your experience with your baby's case of jaundice.