Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Causes, Symptoms Of Jaundice and Its Treatment

What is Jaundice?
Jaundice is not a disease but rather a sign that can occur in many different diseases.Jaundice, (also known as icterus) is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin, the conjunctival membranes over the sclerae (whites of the eyes), and other mucous membranes caused by hyperbilirubinemia (increased levels of bilirubin in the blood). Jaundice comes from the French word jaune, meaning yellow.The color of the skin and sclerae vary depending on the level of bilirubin. When the bilirubin level is mildly elevated, they are yellowish. When the bilirubin level is high, they tend to be brown.

Causes Of Jaundice:
Jaundice may be caused by several different disease processes. It is helpful to understand the different causes of jaundice by identifying the problems that disrupt the normal bilirubin metabolism and/or excretion.Hemoglobin present in the red blood cells is an important carrier of oxygen throughout the body. Our body replaces dead red blood cells with the new ones and these dead RBCs are processed by liver. This is a normal process, but when the RBCs die rapidly amount of bilirubin in blood increases very fast. Hence, increased amount of bilirubin in blood is one of the causes for jaundice. Other causes for jaundice are diseases like Malaria, Typhoid and Tuberculosis. Jaundice in infants is a serious condition where infection or abnormality in the functioning of liver may be probable causes for jaundice in new born.

Types Of Jaundice:
Jaundice types are categorized in accordance to their effects on liver:
a.    Pre-Hepatic
b.    Hepatocellular
c.    Post Hepatic
               The pathology is occurring prior to the liver.In tropical countries, malaria can cause jaundice in this manner. Certain genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, spherocytosis, thalassemia and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency can lead to increased red cell lysis and therefore hemolytic jaundice. Commonly, diseases of the kidney, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome, can also lead to coloration.
              The pathology is located within the liver.Hepaticellular (Hepatic) jaundice (in hepatocellular jaundice there is invariably cholestasis) can be caused by acute hepatitis, hepatotoxicity, and alcoholic liver disease, whereby cell necrosis reduces the liver's ability to metabolize and excrete bilirubin leading to a buildup of unconjugated bilirubin in the blood.Rat fever (leptospirosis) can also cause hepatic jaundice.
Post Hepatic:
             The pathology is located after the conjugation of bilirubin in the liver. Post-hepatic jaundice, also called obstructive jaundice, is caused by an interruption to the drainage of bile in the biliary system. The most common causes are gallstones in the common bile duct, and pancreatic cancer in the head of the pancreas. Also, a group of parasites known as "liver flukes" can live in the common bile duct,causing obstructive jaundice.

Symptoms Of Jaundice:
The first and foremost jaundice symptom is the skin color turning yellow. Tongue along with skin turns yellowish or pale. Patients feel extreme fatigue and weakness along with some common jaundice symptom like fever, headache and nausea.Jaundice symptom triggers pregnant women making them more prone to fever, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, frequent fainting episodes and abnormal thirst.

Treatment Of Jaundice:
Treatment depends on the underlying cause, and may involve removal of the offending agent; administration of antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, or antiparasitic drugs; surgery to correct blockage; the use of chemotherapy, antiflammatory, or steroid medications, dietary changes; measures to minimize symptoms; or any combination of the above. The need to limit activity depends entirely on the underlying cause of the jaundice, but in general, only serious problems require severe limitations.

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