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 other health problems.
Conditions associated with jaundice; Yellow skin and eyes; Skin - yellow; Icterus; Eyes - yellow
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:
Jaundice may appear suddenly or develop slowly over time. Symptoms of jaundice commonly include:
Note: If 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 depends on the cause of the jaundice.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your provider if you develop symptoms of jaundice.
Berk P, Korenblat K. Approach to the patient with jaundice or abnormal liver tests In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 147.
Wheatley MA, Heilpern KL. Jaundice In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 28.
Review Date: 4/20/2015
Reviewed By: Subodh K. Lal, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastrointestinal Specialists of Georgia, Austell, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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