Jaundice is a condition wherein your skin and eyes turn yellowish. Newborns often manifest this type of skin discoloration but adults can also get it. If you think the symptoms you’re having are related to jaundice, be sure to seek medical attention right away. It could be liver, gallbladder, or other organ problems.
Why Jaundice Affects Adults
Jaundice occurs when there is excessive bilirubin in your blood. Bilirubin is a yellowish pigment that’s found in the red blood cells. If these cells die, they are instantly filtered from the bloodstream by the liver. However, when something wrong happens and your liver can’t filter it, bilirubin builds up in the blood and body tissues, which makes your skin become yellow. Although jaundice isn’t common among adults, you may develop it for several reasons. These includes:
- Alcohol-related liver disorders: people who consume too much alcohol are at risk of getting jaundice. Alcohol-related diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis can increase your chances of developing jaundice. The reason is that these two diseases can extremely impair the liver’s proper functioning.
- Pancreatic cancer: this type of cancer can cause severe damage to the bile duct, resulting in the occurrence of jaundice.
- Hepatitis: most often, this disease is triggered by a virus. It might be acute or chronic. Chronic hepatitis implies that the virus persists for more than six months. Autoimmune disorders can trigger the development of hepatitis and if it goes untreated for a long period, it can destroy the liver and cause jaundice.
- Blocked bile ducts: bile ducts are thin tubes responsible for carrying bile from the liver to the small intestine. At times, they could get completely blocked by cancer, liver, or gallstone diseases. If this happens, you’d end up getting jaundice.
- Certain drugs: penicillin, steroids, acetaminophen, and birth control pills have been proven to be strong culprits of detrimental liver diseases.
Tests and Diagnosis
Your physician will recommend a test to check the level of bilirubin in your blood. If you have jaundice, the amount of bilirubin will be extremely high. The doctor will inquire about your symptoms as well as the medical history. He/she may also perform a physical examination and even order additional tests to check the condition of your liver. Your doctor may also request for a complete blood count test to establish the real cause of your jaundice.
How Is Jaundice Treated?
In adults, jaundice doesn’t require any form of treatment. However, your doctor will provide treatments for the underlying cause of your condition. If you’re suffering from short-term hepatitis, jaundice will disappear on its own when the liver starts to heal. If a blocked bile duct is responsible for the symptoms, your physician might recommend a minor surgery to open it up.
Symptoms Associated with Jaundice
The commonest symptom accompanying jaundice is the yellowing of the skin and some parts of the eyes. Such discolorations become visible in the face and gradually spread across the entire body. Other symptoms include:
Remember, treatment can be prescribed after the underlying cause is comprehensively diagnosed. The suggested treatment will be focused on resolving the exact cause. Jaundice that develops due to anemia might be treated by increasing the iron levels through the provision of iron supplements or by elevating the intake of iron-enriched foods.