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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