Newborn Jaundice (Neonatal Jaundice) (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of jaundice in newborns?

Neonatal jaundice may be associated with various symptoms, depending upon the degree of elevation in bilirubin levels as well as the exact cause of the jaundice. The yellow discoloration of the skin will begin on the face and forehead and extend toward the feet as the levels of bilirubin increase. This characteristic progression of jaundice in infants can sometimes allow your health care professional to estimate the bilirubin level based on the location and extent of the jaundice, though this assessment can often be inaccurate.

The signs and symptoms associated with neonatal jaundice may include the following:

  • Yellow discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes and the whites of the eyes
  • Light-colored stool
  • Poor feeding
  • Lethargy/excessive sleepiness
  • Changes in muscle tone (either listless or stiff with arching of the back)
  • High-pitched crying
  • Seizures

Kernicterus, which is caused by prolonged excessively elevated levels of bilirubin affecting the central nervous system, must be recognized and promptly treated as it can lead to permanent brain damage. Kernicterus is an irreversible and chronic condition which can include cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and intellectual impairment. Kernicterus has likely started to develop if the infant begins to exhibit extreme lethargy, changes in muscle tone, and a high-pitched cry.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2014

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