Jaundice Symptoms

It is defined as a condition which occurs because of excess of bilirubin (2.5-3 mg/dL i.e. milligrams per deciliter) in the blood. Bilirubin is a by-product produced because of natural breakdown of the red blood cells in the liver. Usually, liver gets rid of old red blood cells and bilirubin is excreted in the form of bile. However, if bilirubin is not excreted properly it may result in jaundice.

Bilirubin is yellow pigment and excess of it in the blood causes discoloration of skin, whites of eyes, mucous membrane urine and stools

Jaundice is not a disease but a sign of underlying disease in process. The condition arises because of Hepatitis A virus which enters into the body by contaminated water. The virus affects liver. Following conditions may signify jaundice, and should not be ignored.


- Yellowing of the skin and eyes: The yellowing or discoloration of whites in the eyes and skin is the characteristic change observed in the patients suffering from jaundice. The discoloration results due to the accumulation of bilirubin in skin and eyes tissues.

Usually, liver excreted bilirubin as it is by-product. If it remains accumulated, it indicates disruption in the liver metabolic process.

- Dark urine: As per the metabolic process, Red blood cells are destructed by the liver and produces bilirubin which is further modified to a pigment called bile. Bile is excreted out of the body by liver through urine.

When bilirubin level is elevated in body, the amount of bile pigment discharged through urine is also increased. This results in darkening of urine.

- Stomach pain: Jaundice may occur due to blockage of bile or bilirubin in the bile duct. The blockage happens as a result of gallstone formation or infection in the bile duct. This leads to accumulation of pigment to a higher level. Many people experience abdominal pain on the right side just below the rib cage, due to the accumulation and blockage.

- Excessive fatigue: It is a common symptom in people who suffer from jaundice as it affects the bile duct. It is similar to primary sclerosing cholangitis, primary biliary cirrhosis and drug-induced liver injury i.e. vanishing bile duct syndrome.

- Pale stools: Usually, in healthy individual with normal level of bilirubin, bile is excreted through urine and stool as well. However, when a person is suffering from jaundice, bilirubin is excreted mostly through urine and remaining bilirubin is circulated throughout the body via the blood stream and gets accumulated in various body tissues. This results in discolored or gray colored stool.

- Vomiting: Blockage of bile or bilirubin in the bile duct may cause nausea and vomiting. If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to further complications.

- Itching (Pruritis): The condition is associated with underlying bile duct obstruction (difficulty in the flow of bile to the intestine) or cirrhosis of the liver. The bile ducts get blocked and become unable to carry bile away from the liver to the gallbladder. Due to an increased level of toxins deposited in blood vessels during the destruction of bile, to which bilirubin binds in the liver.

Itching often begins in the hands and the feet. Gradually, it spreads all over the body and may get worse at night.

- Sleep disturbances: Insomnia accompanied with emotional distress is often observed in patients suffering from jaundice.

- Appearance of spider-like blood vessels under the skin: Jaundice causes increased blood flow through the blood vessels. This causes the skin to develop markings and blood vessels become noticeable from under the skin. This marking is termed as spider angiomas.

Spider angiomas often occur on the upper body which includes arms, hands, neck, trunk and face. The symptoms may signify some other disease as well.

- Swollen abdomen: In case of jaundice, spleen and liver expand causing the abdomen to swell. Also, liver disease may cause fluid to accumulate in the abdomen.

Swollen abdomen signifies other liver diseases including inflamed or infected liver.

- Fever: The cause of fever may be due to bile duct obstruction or some kind of liver infection.

The fever caused because of jaundice is usually100.4˚F (38˚C) or higher.

- Swollen ankle, feet and legs: The bilirubin produced by the liver is excreted through urine. When the function is disrupted, fluid is accumulated in different parts of the bodies causing swelling.

- Weakness: If a person feels weakness for over two weeks along with other symptoms of elevated bilirubin in the blood. It may signify jaundice.

The above symptoms may signify other diseases. However, if it persists for a prolonged period, a doctor should be consulted and the reason should be discussed.

If left untreated, it may damage the liver severely and might lead to death.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) What is Jaundice?

Ans: It is a medical condition which leads to the accumulation of bilirubin in the body, resulting in yellowish discoloration of whites of eyes and skin. It is not a disease but a symptom of the underlying condition. Jaundice is also known as “icterus”

2) How Jaundice can be prevented?

Ans: Few alterations in lifestyle can help prevent the occurrence of jaundice. Some of them are listed below:

- Exercise: Regular exercise will keep the body healthy and avoid the infection.

- Diet: The diet should consist of essential nutrients which are required for sound physical and mental health.

Enzyme secretion and functioning are possible only with a healthy diet.

- Regulating body weight: Sometimes, obesity can be harmful and can cause impairment in the liver functioning.

- Alcohol consumption: Alcohol consumption affects the liver and damages it severely and this results in jaundice. Thus, alcohol should be avoided for a healthy liver.

- Hygiene: One of the causes of jaundice is contaminated water. Hence, staying clean can help to avoid this cause of jaundice.

3) What is the recovery time of jaundice?

Ans: Usually, around 1-2 months is the time period to completely recover from jaundice. The improvement is evident by the end of the 3rd week with appropriate treatment as a person gets rid of conditions such as pain, itching and weakness. Though, it is suggested to continue with the diet plan as suggested by a medical professional.

4) What is the appropriate diet for jaundice patients?

Ans: Here is a list of food that should be included in the diet plan of an individual suffering from jaundice. However, a medical professional should be consulted before altering the regular diet.

-  Whole Wheat

-  Avoid fat, spicy and fried food

-  Green vegetables such as spinach should be included in the diet

-  Fruits containing fresh juice

-  Lots of fluids such as juice and water

-  Vegetable soup

-  Lemon juice with warm water is an effective remedy

5) What all laboratory tests prescribed for a diagnosis of jaundice?

Ans: Following tests are recommended to diagnose jaundice:

- Bilirubin test- The test helps determine the exact amount of bilirubin present in the blood. The ratio of direct and indirect bilirubin is tested to determine the type of jaundice an individual is suffering from.

- CBC Test- The test helps diagnose the count of RBCs which confirms if there is hemolytic jaundice.

- Liver function test - The test is to check the functioning of the liver. This test is usually sufficient to confirm jaundice. However, sometimes a doctor may order some other tests as well.

- Imaging tests - The test detect the presence of an obstruction, if any.

- Other tests - Tests for hepatitis A, B and C are also prescribed.

6) How is Jaundice classified?

Ans: Jaundice is classified on the basis of the amount of bilirubin in the blood. It is classified into following types:

- Hemolytic Jaundice- This type of jaundice occurs due to excessive breakdown of red blood cells.

- Hepatocellular Jaundice- Malfunctioning of the liver is the main cause of hepatocellular jaundice.

- Obstructive Jaundice- Obstructive bile duct is the main cause of Obstructive Jaundice.

7) What is infant jaundice?

Ans: Infant jaundice is caused in infants who are born before 38 weeks and who are breastfeeding. The main reason behind infant jaundice is incomplete pregnancy span.  This doesn’t suggest that the infant has an underdeveloped liver. Every newborn has a small liver which is not capable to remove bilirubin which is being produced in the body. As the baby grows, the liver grows simultaneously and it becomes stronger and starts functioning normally.

8) What are the treatment options available for infant jaundice?

Ans: Infant jaundice gets cured by its own, usually. However, in a few cases pediatrician prescribes medicine which depends on the severity of the condition.

A medical professional should be consulted, as sometimes excess of bilirubin in a baby may cause brain damage.

9) What is the cause of infant jaundice?

Ans: Some of the cases of jaundice are listed below:

-  Underdeveloped liver due to premature delivery

-  Blood infection in the infant

-  Some kind of internal bleeding

-  Enzyme deficiency or malfunction

-  Insufficiently breastfed

-  Viral or bacterial infection

-  Incompatibly of blood group with mother and infant

-  Abnormal red blood cells

10) Is it difficult to treat jaundice?

Ans: Once the cause of jaundice is diagnosed, jaundice can be treated easily. Some of the treatment options are listed below:

-  Bile obstructions require surgical remedies, but it is rare.

-  Steroid medication has been proved effective in treating jaundice.

-  In the case of hemolytic jaundice, iron medication is recommended. Diet rich in iron content is also effective.

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Last updated on : 25-10-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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