Jaundice

  • Definition

    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.

    See newborn jaundice for information about jaundice in infants.


    Alternative Names

    Conditions associated with jaundice; Yellow skin and eyes; Skin - yellow; Icterus; Eyes - yellow


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Everyday, a small number of red blood cells in your body die, and are replaced by new ones. The liver removes the old blood cells, forming bilirubin. The liver helps break down bilirubin so that it can be removed by the body in the stool.

    When too much bilirubin builds up in the body, jaundice may result.

    Jaundice can occur if:

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

    Jaundice is often a sign of a problem with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. Infections, use of certain drugs, cancer, blood disorders, gallstones, birth defects and a number of other medical conditions can lead to jaundice. For more information on the causes of jaundice see: Jaundice causes