Definition, Symptoms and Treatment


Jaundice – yellowish discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes, also called icterus, resulting from high levels of bilirubin in the blood.

As well, the urine may be dark brown or tea-colored and the stools pale, indicating a high concentration of bile pigments dissolved in the urine and a lack of bile entering the intestinal tract.

Intense itching (pruritis) often accompanies jaundice, the skin’s reaction to the irritation of the bilirubin deposits. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the destruction of erythrocytes (red blood cells).

The spleen performs this destruction to rid the body of old erythrocytes that no longer function properly.

The liver incorporates bilirubin into bile, which it then secretes into the gastrointestinal tract to aid in digestion as well as to excrete the excess as waste.

Jaundice indicates liver disease or gallbladder disease that interferes with this bilirubin handling, either in the breakdown stage (liver) or the elimination stage (gallbladder). In most people the jaundice goes away with treatment of the underlying condition. Newborns commonly develop a form of jaundice not related to liver dysfunction called neonatal or physiologic jaundice.


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