What is jaundice?

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Jaundice is a condition wherein a person will have yellowish skin along with the sclera of the eyes. This condition happens when there is too much bilirubin floating around in the bloodstream. Under normal conditions, this substance is regularly filtered out by the liver because it is considered a waste substance. Bilirubin freely floats in the bloodstream at the time iron is separated from the hemoglobin content of blood. When a person is healthy, freely floating bilirubin is considered normal and it gives feces its brown and yellow color. Any excess of this substance will then be transported to the liver for excretion. Along the way from the bloodstream down to the excretory organs including the liver, some components of the body may not be able to flush out the excess bilirubin. When this happens, jaundice will occur and patients will have yellowish eyes and skin.

When a person has jaundice, most cases point to an underlying disease involving the liver itself. When the liver is affected and is not able to excrete excess bilirubin from the bloodstream, it will cause the skin to change into a yellowish color. The sclera of the eyes will also turn yellowish. This type of jaundice is called the hepatocellular type. Aside from the liver dysfunction, too much bilirubin may be produced by the body when there is an excessive activity of the red blood cells or erythrocytes. When there is hemolysis or very fast break down of red blood cells, an excess amount of bilirubin will also be produced and therefore cause jaundice. There are also other cases of jaundice that is secondary to some obstruction in the bile duct area. This area facilitates the transport and excretion of bilirubin from the intestines to the liver and when there is obstruction, obstructive type of jaundice will occur.

People with hepatitis may also present with jaundice. Not all patients with jaundice though will be diagnosed to have hepatitis. Several blood tests are needed to check on the actual cause of jaundice. Treatment will also be based on the actual underlying cause of the condition.

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