What is Jaundice and How to Self Care in Jaundice?

By Dr. Deepak Lahoti in Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Endoscopy

Aug 19 , 2016 | 3 min read

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is primarily an excessive accumulation of a pigment called bilirubin. This pigment is formed due to disintegration of dead red blood cells. Normally, this pigment is excreted in our intestines; however, if you are suffering from liver diseases or obstruction to passage of bile, bilirubin accumulates in the blood and causes Jaundice. One vulnerable symptom of Jaundice that creates panic in the mind of several patients is yellowing of eyes and skin.


There can be many causes of Jaundice that can disrupt the functioning of your metabolism. Jaundice can also be because of obstruction to bile ducts because of stone or tumors of gallbladder and pancreas. It is advisable to know about the different disease causes that are mentioned below:

  • Diseases of the liver like viral hepatitis, excessive use of alcohol drug induced hepatitis can cause Jaundice. Hepatitis can be caused because of various types of viruses like virus ABC and E. Type Hepatitis E virus is most common amongst adults and type A amongst children. In most of the patients who have Viral hepatitis jaundice recovers in period of 1 to 4 weeks. Minority of patients however can develop complications like acute liver failure and may need even transplantation of the liver.
  • Sometimes excessive destruction of red blood cells known as hemolytic anemia can also lead to jaundice.
  • In addition to the above, the causes of Jaundice in extremely young children and neonates are different and they need expert care. Jaundice in young age is often due to viral hepatitis, alcoholism while in old age it is often due to stones and tumors.

Note: If there is any previous history of Jaundice, then patient should be carefully evaluated for underlying chronic liver diseases. Also, early consultation with a liver disease specialist is very important. Jaundice during pregnancy is extremely important as it puts the mother and the baby at risk of early delivery abortion, or even death.


The most prevalent sign when you are suffering from jaundice is yellowness of the skin that starts from the head and spread to the body. Few symptoms that may require a specialist intervention are:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Itchiness
  • Dark colored urine
  • Excessive vomiting/fatigue/weight loss
  • White/pale stools than usual

Jaundice Treatments

  • Always see a doctor if you are suffering from jaundice as treatment will be based on the severity of condition as well as complications involved in it.
  • Few tests like liver function test and ultrasound are best ways to determine the jaundice. However, in certain situations tests like MRCP and CT scan are also recommended.
  • Various medical treatments may include medications, blood transfusions, intravenous fluids.
  • In a new born case, exposing the baby to colored lights may be necessary, in order to reduce the bilirubin levels.
  • In some cases like if a stone or tumor is a problem, endoscopic and surgical treatment of the tumor and extraction of stone is carried out. The doctor may advice putting a stent across to relieve the patient from jaundice.

How to Care at home

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It is usually seen that patients when suffering from jaundice have a low appetite, feel fatigued, and itchy all over their body. Therefore, it is important to know the underlying cause of the disease. Whenever a person has jaundice we strongly recommend seeing a doctor as early as possible and not indulge in various unproven self medications. However, to manage the disease at home several measures can be taken like:

  • Eating a palatable and well balanced low fat diet
  • Taking medicines as prescribed by the doctor
  • Avoiding supplements, herbs, or medications that can cause side effects
  • Drinking fluids, juices and taking rest as required.
  • Sufficient milk intake to newborns especially breast feeding.
  • Newborn jaundice can be prevented by exposing the baby to light several times during the day to decrease bilirubin levels.