By Dr Moka Praneeth
Consultant Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist
Published on: 15/06/2022
Yellowish skin or whitish eyes? Do not ignore!
Get yourself checked for jaundice.
Yellow or pale skin is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying blood or liver disorder!
Jaundice is a yellowish discoloration of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes caused by high bilirubin levels (a yellowish pigment found in the bile, a fluid made by the liver). The level of bilirubin in the blood determines the colour tone. When bilirubin levels are mildly increased, the skin/whites of the eyes are yellowish; when levels are high, they are brownish.
Now it's a big concern! Can jaundice spread from person to person?
Jaundice isn’t contagious, but the underlying conditions that cause it can be. Let’s clear this!
Fluid build-up in the body produces this condition, which results in yellow skin and eyes. The condition isn't harmful in and of itself, but it can indicate a number of diseases that should be treated by a medical professional. However, it’s important to know details about jaundice in terms of causes, symptoms, and treatments.
What causes jaundice?
The liver's major role is to eliminate bilirubin, a byproduct of the normal breakdown of red blood cells. When the liver fails to take it from the bloodstream, metabolises it, and excrete it as bile, it causes jaundice.
Therefore, suffering from jaundice could be an indication of:
- A defect in the liver that prevents it from extracting and eliminating bilirubin.
- Bile duct blockage. (Cancer, gallstones, or bile duct inflammation can all block the bile duct.)
- There is too much bilirubin created for the liver to eliminate from the blood (For example, in case of malaria where there is rapid destruction of red blood corpuscles, very high levels of bilirubin are produced).
What diseases cause jaundice?
Several common conditions can cause an increase in bilirubin production. Hepatitis B and C, alcoholic liver disease, liver cancer, and pancreatic cancer are some of the disorders that induce jaundice. Some medications may also cause jaundice. This occurs as a result of medications being metabolized by the liver.
The severity of symptoms depends on the underlying causes. If you have jaundice for a short period of time (typically caused by infection), you may have the following symptoms and signs:
- Yellow staining of the skin and tongue
- Clay-coloured and foul-smelling faeces
- Loss of appetite
- Slow pulse
- Deep yellow-coloured urine
- Fever and headache
- Undue fatigue
- Nausea and severe constipation
- Itchy skin and having a bitter taste
Prevention and treatment of jaundice
Here are some ways to prevent jaundice:
- Get immunised against Hepatitis B
- Prefer to eat in hygienic places
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Hepatitis B can be transmitted through intercourse, therefore practise safe sex
As previously stated, jaundice is an indication of a disease!
So, if you suspect any symptoms of jaundice, you must visit a doctor. The treatment requires the diagnosis of the specific cause of jaundice.
A light diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as plenty of fluids such as fruit juices, tender coconut water, and buttermilk, is typically recommended to relieve the strain on your sluggish liver.
If diagnosed with jaundice, say no to alcohol, fried or heavy foods. Jaundice can be serious when bilirubin levels are very high in the body and it can lead to complications such as liver failure, and sepsis.
Don’t wait for the symptoms to get severe.