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Jaundice causes

Definition

Jaundice is a yellow color in the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes. The yellow color comes from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells. Jaundice is a sign of other diseases.

This article discusses the possible causes of jaundice in children and adults. Newborn jaundice occurs in very young infants.

Alternative Names

Causes of jaundice

Information

Jaundice is often a sign of a problem with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. Jaundice can occur when too much bilirubin builds up in the body. This may happen when:

  • There are too many red blood cells dying or breaking down and going to the liver.
  • The liver is overloaded or damaged.
  • The bilirubin from the liver is unable to properly move into the digestive tract.

Conditions that can cause jaundice include:

  • Infections of the liver from a virus (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E) or a parasite
  • Use of certain drugs (such as an overdose of acetaminophen) or exposure to poisons
  • Birth defects or disorders present since birth that makes it hard for the body to breakdown bilirubin (such as Gilbert syndrome, Dubin-Johnson syndrome, Rotor syndrome, or Crigler-Najjar syndrome)
  • Liver damage
  • Gallstones or gallbladder disorders
  • Blood disorders
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Bile build-up in the gallbladder because of pressure in the belly area during pregnancy (jaundice of pregnancy)

References

Lidofsky SD. Jaundice. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 20.


Review Date: 8/26/2013
Reviewed By: Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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