Jaundice: Causes, Symptoms, Prognosis

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is a very common liver disorder characterized by hyper-destruction of red blood cells, and/or failure of liver to synthesize these RBC at a matching rate. Jaundice occurs due to increase in the bile pigments (bilirubin) in the blood.

Haemoglobin present in red blood cells is the main carriers of oxygen throughout the body. Red blood cells are produced continuously in the bone marrow.The red blood cells have a lifespan of around 120 days during which it passes through the blood. After 120 days, RBC is destructed in the spleen. This destruction results in the normal release of free bilirubin which is toxic. Free bilirubin then reaches the liver where biochemical processes transform it into non-toxic bilirubin which then forms a component of bile. This bilirubin is responsible for the yellow color of urine and feces.

The amount of bilirubin increases very fast, when red blood cells die rapidly. Liver fails to convert it into bile at a matching pace. This results in a yellow discoloration of the skin and mucus membranes which is called Jaundice.

Another instance of Jaundice occurs when the hemolysis is normal but the functioning of liver is affected due to some diseases like Infection resulting in hepatitis or enzymes imbalance which prevents the level from normally synthesizing bilirubin.

Still another situation in which jaundice occurs involves presence an some obstacle to the flow of bile causing a retention of synthesized bilirubin. This bilirubin enters the bloodstream in excess of the required proportion and results in jaundice called “cholestasis”

Causes and symptoms

Symptoms of Jaundice Causes of Jaundice

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Yellow discolouration of the tongue, skin, eyes and urine
  • Extreme weakness
  • Severe constipation
  • Dull pain in the liver region
  • fever


Jaundice  can be caused by various reasons like blockage in bile duct ,which normally discharges  bile salts and pigment to the intestine.  The  block in the bile ducts can be  due to gallstones or inflammation of liver , also known as hepatitis  , which is caused by a virus. Jaundice may also be caused d by excessive consumption of alcohol,  cancer of pancreas  haemolytic anaemia and other diseases which affect the liver such as malaria, yellow fever, typhoid and tuberculosis.


Jaundice Prognosis

Normal physiological jaundice has a good prognosis.

However, the prognosis in case of cholestatic jaundice is poor and requires emergency treatment. This is required because, free bilirubin in the blood is toxic and can cause several neurological disease inlcuding movement disorders, kernicterus, profound deafness, abnormal tone and other unwanted consequences. A regular post jaundice monitoring is vital in such cases.