Jaundice is a symptom wherein the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow. A common form of jaundice is infant jaundice but it can occur in adults as well. The reason for the yellow coloring is an unbalance in the natural process of red blood cells dying and being eliminated from the body. As part of this process bilirubin is formed which in turn is broken down and removed from the blood stream by the liver and then discarded as bile through the intestinal tract. If too much bilirubin is formed or the liver cannot filter or expel it rapidly enough it builds up in the blood stream causing the jaundiced or yellowing appearance. Therefore jaundice can be because too many red blood cells are dying, the liver is damaged and not able to filter the bilirubin being formed or the bilirubin is not being excreted properly.
Infant jaundice usually occurs because the liver is not fully developed at birth, especially with premature birth. Another cause can be the newborn is not getting enough to drink possibly with breast feeding because the mother’s milk is not in yet or in more rare cases substances in the mother’s breast milk can cause excess bilirubin. Another rare occurrence is Rh factor or blood group incompatibility between mother and baby that is now commonly diagnosed and treated with an injection of Rh immune globulin. Infant jaundice usually appears in the first few days after birth and will clear within the first few weeks.
Other common causes of jaundice at any age include liver problems or problems in the gallbladder or pancreas. Beyond this infections, certain drugs, blood disorders as well as many other conditions can result in this symptom.
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