Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, is the yellow staining of the skin and sclerae (the whites of the eyes) by abnormally high blood levels of the bile pigment, bilirubin. The yellowing extends to other tissues and body fluids and also may turn the urine dark. Yellowing of only the skin also can be caused by eating too many carrots or drinking too much carrot juice.
The bile pigment, bilirubin, comes from red blood cells. When old red blood cells are destroyed by the body (a normal process), the oxygen-carrying molecule within the cells, hemoglobin, is released into the blood. The hemoglobin is rapidly converted to bilirubin in the blood. The bilirubin is removed from the blood by the liver, modified, and excreted into the bile. The bile flows into the intestine so that the bilirubin is eliminated in the stool. (It is bilirubin that gives stool its brown color.) Jaundice can occur whenever this normal process of destruction of red blood cells and elimination of bilirubin is interrupted. This occurs when there is abnormally increased destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis), liver disease that reduces the ability of the liver to remove and modify bilirubin, or obstruction to the flow of bile into the intestine.
Other causes of jaundice
- Autoimmune Hepatitis
- Hemolytic Anemia (Including Spherocytosis, Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency)
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.Next Article
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Bile Duct Cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma)
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Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
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Gallbladder cancer is a rare form of cancer with symptoms that include jaundice, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting, abdominal lumps, and bloating. Risk factors include being female and Native American. Treatment of gallbladder cancer depends upon the stage of the cancer, the type of gallbladder cancer, and whether the cancer can be removed by surgery.
Gallstones (Pain, Symptoms, Causes, Diet, and Treatment)
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Hepatitis (Viral Hepatitis, A, B, C, D, E, G)
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Hepatitis B (HBV, Hep B)
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Hepatitis C (HCV, Hep C)
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Hepatitis E Viral Infection
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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
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Jaundice (Newborn, Kernicterus)
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Marburg Virus Disease
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Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer vs Small Cell Lung Cancer
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Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor of the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer has been called a "silent" disease because early pancreatic cancer usually does not cause early symptoms. Typically, pancreatic cancer has metastasized (spread to adjacent organs, such as the liver) by the time most people receive a dignosis of pancreatic cancer. Symptoms and signs usually appear later in the course of the disease and include jaundice, back pain, nausea, weight loss, itching, and loss of appetite. Treatment depends upon the type of pancreatic cancer but may include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy.
Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors (Islet Cell Tumors)
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Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but others include breast swelling and tenderness, nausea and sometimes vomiting, fatigue, and bloating. Second trimester symptoms include backache, weight gain, itching, and possible stretch marks. Third trimester symptoms are additional weight gain, heartburn, hemorrhoids, swelling of the ankles, fingers, and face, breast tenderness, and trouble sleeping. Eating a healthy diet, getting a moderate amount of exercise, also are recommended for a healthy pregnancy. Information about the week by week growth of your baby in the womb are provided.
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC)
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Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC)
Primary sclerosing cholangitis or PSC is a disease of the liver. The cause of PSC is not known. Symptoms may include itching, fatigue, jaundice, fever, and confusion. The only treatment for Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a liver transplant.
Sickle Cell Disease (Sickle Cell Anemia)
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Yellow fever is an infectious disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Side effects are rare with the yellow fever vaccine. Symptoms include fever, chills, back pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache. Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms.
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