Jaundice refers to a yellow staining of the skin and sclerae (the whites of the eyes) due to a buildup of the bile pigment, bilirubin. High bilirubin levels in the blood result in the characteristic yellowish discoloration of jaundice.
Bilirubin comes from red blood cells. Normally, the body destroys some red blood cells. When this happens, hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule within the cells, is released into the blood and converted to bilirubin. In the fetus, the placenta removes bilirubin from the fetal bloodstream. After the baby is born, the liver removes bilirubin from the blood, modifies it, and excretes it into the bile. The bile flows into the intestine so that the bilirubin is eliminated in the stool.
Many babies develop jaundice in the first few days of life that is typically worse at 2-4 days of age. This is known as physiological jaundice and typically goes away within two weeks. Mild jaundice can also result from breastfeeding. Severe jaundice in newborns results from medical conditions that cause an excessive turnover of red blood cells, including abnormal blood cell shapes and mismatch between maternal and fetal blood types. Certain medications and medical conditions can also slow down the process of removing bilirubin from the body and lead to jaundice. Some twins and babies who are small for their gestational age also have jaundice due to higher levels of red blood cells.
Other causes of neonatal jaundice
- Bacterial Infections
- Biliary Atresia
- Biliary Obstruction
- Birth Trauma
- Blood Type Mismatch Between Mother and Baby
- Certain Medications
- Congenital Rubella
- Congenital Syphilis
- Congenital Toxoplasmosis
- Crigler-Najjar Syndrome
- Dubin-Johnson Syndrome
- Glycogen Storage Diseases
- Hereditary Elliptocytosis
- Hereditary Spherocytosis
- Low Oxygen Level
- Niemann-Pick Disease
- Normal Newborn Physiological Jaundice
- Premature Birth
- Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
- Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency
- Red Blood Cell Abnormalities
- Rotor's Syndrome
- Small Size for Gestational Age
- Trisomy 18
- Trisomy 21
- Twin Gestation
- Viral Infections
- Wilson's Disease
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Causes of Neonatal Jaundice
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is an inherited disorder caused by mutations in the SERPINA1 gene. People with the condition are at risk for developing serious lung and liver disease.
Can a Liver Hemangioma Go Away on Its Own?
No, liver hemangioma doesn’t go away without treatment. People who have liver hemangioma rarely experience signs and symptoms and typically don't need treatment. They are generally small and even if they become large they may not carry significant risk.
Choledochal cysts are cysts of the bile ducts. There are several different types of choledochal cysts. These cysts are congenital, however, their cause is not known. Symptoms of choledochal cysts in infants include an enlarged liver and jaundice. In older people, the cysts cause abdominal pain, jaundice, cholangitis, gallstones, and pancreatitis. Treatment for choledochal cysts is surgery.
Cystic fibrosis is a disease of the mucus and sweat glands. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease. The outcome of the disease leaves the body malnourished, with bulky and fouls smelling stools, vitamin insufficiency, gas, painful or swollen abdomen, infertility, susceptible to heat emergencies, and respiratory failure. There is no cure for cystic fibrosis, treatment of symptoms is used to manage the disease.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a virus that is spread from person to person via spit, semen, vaginal secretions, urine, blood, sexual contact, breastfeeding, blood transfusions, organ transplants, and breast milk. Symptoms of CMV include fatigue, swollen glands, fever, and sore throat. You can take precautions to prevent CMV such as washing hands frequently and thoroughly and using condoms. If you work in a day care center, wash your hands thoroughly after contact with body secretions, and avoid oral contact with objects covered in saliva. Individuals with HIV infection are at most risk of contracting CMV.
G6PD deficiency (Glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase) leads to a condition called hemolytic anemia. Causes of G6PD deficiency is an abnormal gene located in the X-chromosome, therefore, it is more common in males. Hemolytic anemia caused by G6PD deficiency generally occurs after exposure to malaria medications, antiitching drugs, and fava beans. Pneumonia and other infections can also precipitate hemolytic anemia in individuals with G6PD deficiency. Treatment is generally discontinuing the drug or compound treating infection. Blood transfusions are necessary in some individuals.
Gallstones are stones that form when substances in the bile harden. Gallstones (formed in the gallbladder) can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. There can be just one large stone, hundreds of tiny stones, or any combination. The majority of gallstones do not cause signs or symptoms; however, when they do occur the primary sign is biliary colic. Symptoms of biliary colic are constant pain for 15 minutes to 4-5 hours, and it may vary in intensity; nausea, severe pain that does not worsen with movement; and pain beneath the sternum. Treatment of gallstones depends upon the patient and the clinical situation.
Gaucher disease is caused by an inherited (genetic) defect in an enzyme glucocerebroside. Signs and symptoms for Gaucher disease include anemia (low blood cell count), easy bruising, easy bleeding, bone pain, fatigue, low platelet count (thrombocytopenia), and enlarged liver and spleen. There are different types of Gaucher disease. Treatment for Gaucher disease depends on type, and symptoms of the disease.
Hepatitis (Viral Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, G)
Hepatitis is most often viral, due to infection with one of the hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, E, F (not confirmed), and G) or another virus (such as those that cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus disease). The main nonviral causes of hepatitis are alcohol and drugs. Many patients infected with hepatitis A, B, and C have few or no symptoms of illness. For those who do develop symptoms of viral hepatitis, the most common are flu-like symptoms including: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, weakness, tiredness, and aching in the abdomen. Treatment of viral hepatitis is dependent on the type of hepatitis.
How Do You Treat Jaundice in Newborns?
Learn what causes jaundice in newborns and what medical treatments can help.
Hypothyroidism is any state in which thyroid hormone production is below normal. Normally, the rate of thyroid hormone production is controlled by the brain by the pituitary gland. Hypothyroidism is a very common condition and the symptoms of hypothyroidism are often subtle, but may include, constipation, memory loss, hair loss, and depression. There are a variety of causes of hypothyroidism, and treatment depends on the cause.
Internal bleeding occurs when an artery or vein is damaged and blood to escapes the circulatory system and collects inside the body. Internal bleeding can be caused by a variety of situations such as blunt trauma, deceleration trauma, medications, fractures, and spontaneous bleeding. Treatment of internal bleeding depends on the cause of the bleeding.
Liver disease can be cause by a variety of things including infection (hepatitis), diseases, for example, gallstones, high cholesterol or triglycerides, blood flow obstruction to the liver, and toxins (medications and chemicals). Symptoms of liver disease depends upon the cause and may include nausea, vomiting, upper right abdominal pain, and jaundice. Treatment depends upon the cause of the liver disease.
Newborn Jaundice (Neonatal Jaundice)
Jaundice in newborns and babies (neonatal jaundice) usually occurs because of a normal increase in red blood cell breakdown and the fact that their immature livers are not efficient at removing bilirubin from the bloodstream. Symptoms of jaundice are fever, poor feeding, and looking ill. Newborn jaundice is very common and is caused because the newborns liver isn’t mature enough to remove bilirubin from the blood. Treatment of jaundice in newborns include phototherapy, tanning booths, and other treatments.
Sepsis (blood poisoning) is a potentially deadly infection with signs and symptoms that include elevated heart rate, low or high temperature, rapid breathing and/or a white blood cell count that is too high or too low and has more than 10% band cells. Most cases of sepsis are caused by bacterial infections, and some cases are caused by fungal infections. Treatment requires hospitalization, IV antibiotics, and therapy to treat any organ dysfunction.
Turner syndrome is an inherited chromosomal condition affecting women. Women with Turner syndrome do not have ovarian function, and features of the syndrome include webbed neck, lymphedema of the hands and feet, heart defects, kidney problems, and skeletal abnormalities. The X chromosome is related to Turner syndrome. Treatment focuses on the symptoms of the syndrome.
Urinary Tract Infections in Children
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in children. Symptoms and signs include fever and abdominal pain. Associated symptoms and signs include flank pain, vomiting, and blood in the urine. Treatment for a UTI involves antibiotic therapy.
What Is Gilbert Syndrome?
Gilbert syndrome is a harmless genetic condition that causes abnormal breakdown of bilirubin, a compound that is formed when hemoglobin from red blood cells degrades. High bilirubin can cause jaundice (yellowing of the eyes). Gilbert syndrome does not need to be treated and has a good prognosis.
What Is the Function of Bile?
Bile juice is a digestive fluid produced by the liver. It is stored and concentrated in the gallbladder. Its main function is to convert fats in food into fatty acids, which are absorbed in the gut. Bile aids in digestion, absorption, detoxification and other processes.