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Jaundice in Adult



Jaundice is a medical condition characterised by the yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes due to an excess of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that forms when red blood cells break down. Normally, the liver processes bilirubin and excretes it in the bile, which is then eliminated from the body.


Symptoms

The main symptom of jaundice is the yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. However, depending on the underlying cause and severity of jaundice, other symptoms may also be present. These can vary from person to person, but common symptoms of jaundice may include:

  • Yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes: This yellow discoloration, known as icterus, is the hallmark sign of jaundice.

  • Dark urine: The urine may appear darker than usual, often described as tea-colored or amber, due to the presence of excess bilirubin.

  • Pale stools: The stools may be lighter or grayish in color due to a reduced amount of bilirubin reaching the intestines.

  • Fatigue and weakness: Jaundice can cause general fatigue, weakness, and a lack of energy.

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort: Some individuals may experience pain or discomfort in the abdominal area, especially if there is an underlying liver or gallbladder condition.

  • Loss of appetite: Jaundice can lead to a decreased appetite and a feeling of fullness, even after consuming small amounts of food.

  • Nausea and vomiting: Some people with jaundice may experience episodes of nausea and vomiting.

  • Weight loss: Unintentional weight loss may occur in individuals with severe or prolonged jaundice, particularly if the underlying cause affects the liver's ability to process nutrients.

  • Itching (pruritus): In certain cases, jaundice can be accompanied by itching, which is often due to the accumulation of bile salts in the skin.

It's important to note that the presence and severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the specific cause and individual factors. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are concerned about jaundice, it is recommended to seek medical attention for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.



Causes

Jaundice typically occurs when there is an issue with the liver's ability to process bilirubin or when there is an obstruction in the bile ducts. Common causes include:

  • Liver diseases: Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and other liver disorders can impair the liver's function and lead to jaundice.

  • Bile duct obstruction: Blockages in the bile ducts, often caused by gallstones, tumors, or strictures (narrowing of the ducts), can prevent bile from flowing properly and cause jaundice.

  • Hemolytic anemia: Conditions that cause an accelerated breakdown of red blood cells, such as certain genetic disorders or autoimmune diseases, can lead to increased bilirubin production and subsequent jaundice.

  • Infections: Viral hepatitis (such as hepatitis A, B, or C), which can affect the liver, is a common infectious cause of jaundice.

  • Medications and toxins: Some medications, as well as exposure to certain chemicals or toxins, can affect liver function and result in jaundice.

Diagnosis

When a person presents with jaundice, the underlying cause needs to be determined through various diagnostic tests, which may include:

  • Blood tests: These measure the levels of bilirubin, liver enzymes, and other markers to assess liver function and identify any specific infections or abnormalities.

  • Imaging tests: Ultrasound, CT scans, or MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) can provide detailed images of the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts to detect any structural abnormalities or blockages.

  • Biopsy: In some cases, a small sample of liver tissue may be extracted for examination under a microscope to assess the extent of liver damage or to identify specific conditions like liver cancer.


Treatment

The treatment of jaundice depends on the underlying cause and may vary from person to person. General recommendations for managing jaundice include:

  • Rest: It is important to allow the body to recover and conserve energy during the healing process.

  • Hydration: Drinking an adequate amount of fluids helps to maintain hydration and support liver function.

  • Avoidance of alcohol: Alcohol can worsen liver damage and hinder the healing process, so it should be avoided.

  • Dietary considerations: It is advisable to avoid fatty and greasy foods and instead opt for easily digestible and nutritious foods. A healthcare professional may provide specific dietary recommendations.

  • Medication review: It is important to consult a doctor before taking any medications or supplements, as certain medications can potentially worsen liver function or interact with existing conditions.


Ultimately, the treatment plan will depend on the specific cause of jaundice, and it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

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