May also be called: Icterus
Bilirubin is produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells (RBCs). Ordinarily, bilirubin passes through the liver and is discharged as bile in the intestines. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up faster than the liver can break it down and pass it from the body. This can happen if too many RBCs are breaking down and going to the liver, if the liver is damaged or blocked, or if bilirubin doesn't pass through the digestive tract properly.
Jaundice, which isn't painful, can be caused by many things (such as infections and blood disorders) or be a sign of a problem with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas.
High levels of bilirubin can lead to serious complications if they go untreated for too long. Jaundice is most common among newborn babies and people with liver infections, gallstones, or substance abuse issues.
All cases of jaundice should be evaluated by a doctor. Treatment will depend on its cause — often, particularly with newborns, the cause is something harmless and the jaundice will clear up on its own.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|Maternal and Child Health Bureau This U.S. government agency is charged with promoting and improving the health of mothers and children.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|Looking at Your Newborn: What's Normal When you first get to see, touch, and inspect your newborn, you may be surprised by what you see. Here's what to expect.|
|Common Diagnoses in the NICU Learn about common NICU conditions, what causes them, how they're diagnosed, how they're treated, and how long babies might stay in the unit.|
|A Primer on Preemies Premature infants, known as preemies, come into the world earlier than full-term infants and have many special needs that make their care different from that of other babies.|
|Blood Test: Bilirubin Doctors may order bilirubin blood tests for infants or older kids if they see signs of the skin taking on the yellow discoloration known as jaundice.|
|Jaundice in Healthy Newborns A common condition in newborns, jaundice refers to the yellow color of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by excess bilirubin in the blood.|
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