Jaundice is a condition where the skin and eyes turn yellowish due to increased levels of Bilirubin in the bloodstream. It is imperative to see a doctor if you become jaundiced, as it is vital to diagnose the cause.
There are two types of Bilirubin in the blood – unconjugated and conjugated. , and conjugated Bilirubin is stored in the gallbladder. The condition can develop from both types of Bilirubin getting into the blood.
Signs and Symptoms:
Some of the most common signs of jaundice are:
- Yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membrane
- Pale coloured stools (faeces)
- Dark coloured urine
Other symptoms associated with the condition will depend on the cause but may include one or more of the following:
- Tiredness (fatigue)
- Tummy (abdominal pain)
- Weight loss
- High temperature (fever)
- Pale stools (faeces)
- Dark urine
Types of Jaundice:
The disruption occurs due to the rapid breakdown of red blood cells that are causing the level of Bilirubin to build up in the blood. Things may become even more severe due to conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and haemolytic anaemia.
The disruption occurs inside the liver. Gilbert’s syndrome, cirrhosis or other liver damage may also aggravate the condition.
Post-hepatic jaundice refers to obstruction of biliary drainage. This is caused by conditions such as gallstones or tumours.
It is useful to divide the causes of jaundice into four general areas:
- Conditions affecting the red blood cells
- Conditions affecting the liver cells
- Conditions affecting the tiny bile ducts within the liver
- Conditions affecting common bile duct outside the liver
Who’s at Risk:
Intra-hepatic and post-hepatic jaundice usually affects middle-aged and older adults, while pre-hepatic jaundice can develop in people of all ages, including children.
Specific changes in lifestyle can be considered to combat jaundice. They are as follows:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Managing consumption of alcohol
What Assessment and Tests Can Be Done?
If you become jaundice, you must see a doctor. As mentioned above, there are various causes. Some are more common, while some are more serious than others.
Seeking the correct diagnosis is extremely crucial, as the treatment and outlook can vary greatly, depending on the cause. However, sometimes, identifying the underlying cause can be a little daunting process.
Your doctor may ask you various questions if you develop the condition. He or she will also examine you. Based on this assessment, the possible causes may be discovered, as specific symptoms and signs develop from some causes of jaundice and not from others.
However, the following tests are necessary to performed to confirm an exact diagnosis:
Medical History and Examination:
Your doctor or clinician is likely to take a detailed medical history to determine the underlying causes of jaundice.
You may check whether:
- You had experienced any flu-like symptoms before your jaundice
- You’re currently having any other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, itchy skin or weight loss
- You’ve recently travelled to a country where conditions such as malaria or hepatitis A are widespread
- You’ve seen a change of colour in your urine and stools
- You’re addicted to excessive alcoholic consumption
- You have a history of prolonged drug abuse
A physical examination may be recommended to check for signs of an underlying condition such as:
- Swelling of the ankles, legs, and feet (a possible sign of cirrhosis)
- Noticeable swelling of your liver (a possible sign of hepatitis)
You may be recommended a urine test to measure levels of a substance called urobilinogen. The rapid breakdown of bilirubin inside the digestive system leads to the production urobilinogen.
Higher-than-expected levels of urobilinogen in your urine may indicate either pre-hepatic jaundice or intra-hepatic jaundice. Lower levels could suggest post-hepatic jaundice.
Liver Function and Blood Tests:
Doctors may recommend you a liver function test to check certain liver conditions, including:
- Alcoholic liver disease
These tests can measure various liver enzymes which help to show if the liver is inflamed or working well.
By measuring if the levels of these enzymes and proteins are raised, it is possible to get an idea about the condition of the liver.
If any damage by a condition such as cirrhosis or liver cancer is suspected, a liver biopsy may be recommended to diagnose and monitor a specific situation.
The procedure involves removal of a small sample of tissue from your liver. The sample is then looked at under a microscope or tested in other ways.
Imaging scan may be useful to check for abnormalities inside the river or bile duct systems. It is a safe and painless test that can provide detailed pictures of organs and other structures inside your body.
Treatment will depend on the underlying condition. The following treatments are prescribed:
- In treating anaemia induced jaundice, blood transfusions may be recommended to replace the red blood cells.
- In cases of intra-hepatic jaundice, treatment aims to prevent any further damage from occurring.
- If the liver condition turns severe, a liver transplant can be considered a possible option.
- In most cases of post-hepatic jaundice, surgery is the ultimate option to unblock the bile duct system.
Due to the full range of potential causes, certain precautions should be taken to prevent all cases of jaundice. Proper preventive measures will help minimise your risk of developing jaundice.
These precautions include:
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- Do regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight
- Get vaccinated against a hepatitis A or hepatitis B infection
- Avoid coming to the exposure to hepatitis C
- Stay away from taking illegal drugs, such as heroin