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Jaundice

Conditions associated with jaundice; Yellow skin and eyes; Skin - yellow; Icterus; Eyes - yellow; Yellow jaundice

Jaundice is a yellow color of the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes. The yellow coloring comes from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells. Jaundice can be a symptom of several health problems.

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Jaundice
Jaundiced infant
Cirrhosis of the liver
Bili lights

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Causes

A small number of red blood cells in your body die each day, and are replaced by new ones. The liver removes the old blood cells. This creates bilirubin. The liver helps break down bilirubin so that it can be removed by the body through the stool.

Jaundice can occur when too much bilirubin builds up in the body.

Jaundice can occur if:

Jaundice is often a sign of a problem with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. Things that can cause jaundice include:

Symptoms

Jaundice may appear suddenly or develop slowly over time. Symptoms of jaundice commonly include:

Note: If your skin is yellow and the whites of your eyes are not yellow, you may not have jaundice. Your skin can turn a yellow-to-orange color if you eat a lot of beta carotene, the orange pigment in carrots.

Other symptoms depend on the disorder causing the jaundice:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. This may show liver swelling.

A bilirubin blood test will be done. Other tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the jaundice.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if you develop jaundice.

Related Information

Bilirubin blood test
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C
Hepatitis D (Delta agent)
Tumor
Bile duct stricture
Gallstones
Pancreatic cancer
Primary biliary cirrhosis
Autoimmune hepatitis
Cholestasis
Bile
Gilbert syndrome
Dubin-Johnson syndrome
Biliary atresia
Newborn jaundice
Hemolytic anemia
Malaria

References

Berk PD, Korenblat KM. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver tests. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 147.

Fargo MV, Grogan SP, Saquil A. Evaluation of jaundice in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2017;95(3):164-168. PMID: 28145671 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28145671.

Lidofsky SD. Jaundice. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 21.

Taylor TA, Wheatley MA. Jaundice. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 25.

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Review Date: 3/25/2019  

Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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