Jaundice: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Do you know which disease is more common in monsoon season, except dengue? It is jaundice. Jaundice is the most common monsoon disease because of the wet weather.

So, in this post, we provide you detailed information about jaundice which includes facts, types, causes, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment along with frequently asked questions that users ask on Google.

What is Jaundice?

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is nothing but a liver disease that is caused by high levels of bilirubin. In jaundice, there is a color change in the skin and white area of the eyes to yellow color— due to bilirubin levels. Moreover, in medical terms, jaundice is also known as icterus and yellow fever.

Generally, the yellow color change of skin in the sign of mild levels of jaundice. While talking about the age distribution, Jaundice can happen to any ages. But often found in infants. As per reports, more than 60% of infants born in the United States are suffering from Jaundice.

In mild conditions, adults usually don’t require treatment. However, jaundice may cause serious problems in the functioning of the liver, gallbladder, red blood cells, and pancreas.

Did you know? In the 1950s, a talented nurse named Sister Jean Ward invented phototherapy. At that time she was in charge of the Premature Unit. At that time, she uses sunlight as a medium for reducing jaundice in newborns and premature infants.

Some Quick Facts of Jaundice

  • Jaundice is caused by an increase in the level of bilirubin, a waste material that was found in the blood.
  • A blocked bile duct or tube can lead to yellow fever.
  • There are varieties of tests to diagnose jaundice.
  • All pancreatic cancer patients will experience jaundice but it also depends on the size and location of their tumor.

What are the Causes of Jaundice?

What are the Causes of Jaundice?

There are many causes that lead a healthy person to jaundice. And also, all these causes are differed by age. So, we discuss all the causes in different-different sections.

But in all types of cases, one thing is common i.e. high level of bilirubin. So, what are the normal level of bilirubin in the blood? In adults, bilirubin levels should in between 0.2 – 1.2 mg/dL.

To understand easily, we categories the cause of jaundice into three parts:

  1. Before production of bilirubin
  2. During the production of  bilirubin
  3. After bilirubin is produced

1. Before the Production of Bilirubin: When there is a case of unconjugated jaundice, where current high levels of bilirubin are caused by:

  • Reabsorption of a large hematoma: due to the collection of clotted blood under the skin.
  • Hemolytic Anemias- In Hemolytic anemias, blood cells are dead before their natural span is over.

2. During the Production of  Bilirubin: When the production of bilirubin starts, Yellow fever can be caused by the following—

  • Inherited defects
    • Gilbert’s syndrome
    • Dubin-Johnson syndrome
    • Crigler-Najjar syndrome
    • Rotor’s syndrome
  • Cirrhosis
  • VirusHepatitis
    • Infection from one of the Hepatitis viruses (A, B, and C tests)
    • Through bacterial infections
    • Autoimmune hepatitis
    • Epstein-Barr virus infection
  • Rare genetic metabolic defects

3. After bilirubin is produced: After the bilirubin is produced,  in general, the conditions that may cause jaundice is the blockage of the bile ducts from:

  • Gallstones
  • Pain in the pancreas
  • Cancer includes gallbladder and pancreatic
  • Biliary atresia

Causes of Jaundice in Newborn and Infants

Conversely, newborn babies are at higher risk of getting yellow fever. These are some causes of jaundice in infants:

  • Premature birth (baby born before 38 weeks of pregnancy).
  • Babies who aren’t getting enough breast milk.
  • Babies whose blood type not fits with their mother’s blood type. In that case, due to immune response, bodies attacking their mother cells, which immediately raises the level of bilirubin.
  • Internal bleeding
  • Due to liver disease
  • By infection
  • Certain deficiency of the enzymes
  • An abnormality in the red blood cell (RBC) of the baby

Types of Jaundice

Types of Jaundice

There are mainly three main types of jaundice:

Hepatocellular Jaundice

Other names are hepatic or liver jaundice. They are caused by chronic hepatitis, hepatotoxicity, and alcoholic liver disease.

Hemolytic Jaundice

It is a condition where there is an excessive loss of red blood cells which triggers the production of bilirubin.

Obstructive Jaundice

They are due to the blockage of the bile tubes or abnormal retention of bile in the liver.

Subtypes of Hepatocellular Jaundice

There are basically three types of hepatic jaundice:

1. Pre-hepatic jaundice: existing or occurring before the liver.
2. Hepatic jaundice: during the liver.
3. Post-hepatic jaundice: after the liver.

Pre-Hepatic Jaundice  

Pre-hepatic jaundice is caused by conditions in which there is an increase in blood’s rate of hemolysis. This process can cause excess heme breakdown which leads to hemolytic anemia by releasing hemoglobin.

Hepatic Jaundice

Hepatic icterus is usually because of liver injury (known as cirrhosis), damaged, or dysfunctional. This results in the formation of less effective at filtering out bilirubin from your blood. Hence, the body unable to filter out by the digestive system which again leads to a high level of bilirubin.

Post-Hepatic Jaundice

Post-hepatic is also known as obstructive jaundice. It happens when the bilirubin can’t be removed properly toward the bile ducts because of a blockage.

Symptoms of Jaundice

Symptoms of yellow fever

Sign and symptoms of yellow fever differ by ages that’s why we have divided this section into two:

Sign & Symptoms of Jaundice in Adults

Symptoms of adults are so different as compared to babies. These are the following symptoms which are common in adults:

  • Fever along with mild headaches
  • Chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Change in skin color
  • Yellowish-eye
  • Dark-colored urine and/or clay-colored stool

In some cases, due to low bilirubin levels— fatigue, weight loss, and vomiting are the symptoms found in adults.

Sign & Symptoms of Jaundice in Infants

Common symptoms found in the newborn baby and infants are :

  • Yellowing of baby’s skin and eyes: It usually begins within 2 to 4 days after birth and shows symptoms generally in the face.
  • After birth, the level of bilirubin in the blood is at the maximum, between 3 and 7 days.
  • Press and Release: Press the finger very lightly, and release it softly. After releasing, the skin changes color to yellow. And it is a clear sign of yellow fever.

What are the Risk Factors of Jaundice?

Usually, jaundice is mild but when it transforms into severe, it can generate many complication and conditions which are:

Risk Factor in Adults

These are the following risk factors (a major and rare condition) that are seen in adults:

Major Conditions

  • Acute inflammation of the liver
  • Inflammation of the bile duct
  • Obstruction of the bile duct
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Gilbert’s syndrome
  • Cholestasis

Rare Conditions

  • Crigler-Najjar syndrome
  • Dubin-Johnson syndrome
  • Pseudojaundice

Risk Factor in Infants/ Newborn

These are the following risk factors in infants and newborns:

  • Premature birth
  • Significant bruising during birth
  • Blood type
  • Breast-feeding
  • Race

Diagnosis For Jaundice

Diagnosis For yellow fever

Test for Adults

Consultants may use many tests to check whether you are suffering from jaundice or not. These are the following test for adults:

1. Liver Function Test: This test is usually done to examine whether the liver is working properly or not. If the doctor is unable to depict any considerable results, then the doctor might prefer other blood tests to examine the bilirubin levels.

Some specific bilirubin tests are:

  • Bilirubin Tests: This test calculates the numbers of bilirubin in the blood. In addition, this test also helpful in determining other diseases like anemia and liver diseases.
  • Full Blood Count (FBC), or complete blood count (CBC): In this test, the levels of red blood cells(RBC), white blood cells(WBC), and platelets are counted.
  • Hepatitis A, B, and C tests: This test is used to determine the level of liver infections.

2. For any Stones and Barriers: However, if they find any barriers in the liver, they usually prefer MRI, CT, and ultrasonic scans, the doctor will also examine the liver structure.

3. Liver Biopsy: A liver biopsy is also required to check for cancer and fatty liver. In this test, specialists insert a small needle-like tube directly into the liver. This helps to obtain a tissue sample for further analysis.

Test For Newborn/ Infants

The yellowing skin of the baby confirms that he/she was suffering from jaundice. But the doctor should prescribe some additional tests to test the severeness of jaundice.

  • Babies who develop yellow fever in the first 24 hours, the bilirubin levels calculate immediately, either through a skin test or blood test.
  • Complete blood count (CBC), and Rhesus factor (Rh): The CBC and Rh are the additional tests that should be performed to see whether the baby has jaundice or not.
  • Coombs test: In addition, the consultant also prefers a Coombs test to check for an increased breakdown of red blood cells.

What is the Treatment for Jaundice?

Usually, in adults, jaundice isn’t required to treat. But, if you have viral hepatitis then it requires some liver improvement medications. Therefore, as the liver improves its functioning, jaundice will automatically go away.

However, if the case of mechanical blockage, surgery is required to remove that blockage.

Treatment for Newborns/ Infants

As babies need treatments to overcome or reduce the symptoms of yellow fever which may include:

1. Enhanced Nutrition: To prevent weight loss, the consultant or specialists usually prescribe you to eat more supplements, so that the baby gets appropriate nutrition.

2. Light Therapy: Light therapy is a way to treat certain medical conditions through artificial light. But to cure jaundice in newborn babies, the infant is placed under the special lamp that emits light. This light therapy automatically triggers the changes and the composition of bilirubin molecules. Hence, it can easily be excreted by urine and stool.

3. Exchange Transfusion:  When all the above treatment is not helpful for the baby, the doctor usually recommends an exchange transfusion of blood. In this process of transfusion, small amounts of blood are withdrawn continuously and replaced with donor blood, thereby it will maintain the bilirubin levels.

What to Eat? And What to Avoid?

What to Eat? And what to Avoid? on jaundice

Food to Eat in Jaundice

Following are the list of items that one should eat to recover from yellow fever:

1. Liquid

Water is one of the best ways that help to overcome jaundice. It doesn’t only help in easy digestion, but it also helps to wash out toxic substances from the kidney as well as from the liver. For instance, one should drink at least 2 liters of water daily.

2. Eat Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

All fresh fruits and vegetables contain some powerful antioxidants which are liver-friendly and help you to prevent liver disease and improves the digestion process. These includes:

  • Blueberries, papayas, and grapes
  • citrus fruits, and grapefruits
  • pumpkins, sweet potatoes
  • carrots, melon, and beets

3. Coffee and Herbal Tea

Herbal or green teas are effective in enhancing digestion as they contain high concentrations of antioxidants. In addition, coffee can be used to reduce the risk of liver diseases which includes cancer and fibrosis.

4. Whole Grain Foods

Whole-grain foods contain high amounts of nutrients that include fats, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. Researchers also confirmed that those who eat oats regularly, it will improve their liver function. This is because they are rich in beta-glucan.

5. Nuts and Legumes

Most nuts and grains are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fat. Studies also reveal that walnuts and other tree nuts are very helpful for the proper functioning of the liver. So, you should eat nuts on a daily basis.

What Should Avoid in Jaundice?


 Alcohol is toxic and consuming excessive alcohol can cause chronic infection which leads to fibrosis which can finally cause yellow fever. However, most people suffering from jaundice or other liver conditions like Autoimmune Hepatitis, Biliary Atresia, and Cirrhosis should try to avoid alcohol completely.

Refined Carbohydrates

Soda, white bread, contains a very large quantity of refined sugar. By consuming, too much sugar can cause harm to the liver which includes type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Packaged and Smoked Foods

Many packaged meat and vegetables contain a large number of preservatives. And basically in the form of salts such as nitrates and sulfates. Salt dehydrates the body, making digestion and metabolism more difficult, and also puts stress on the liver.

Saturated and Trans Fats

Fried and oily foods and dairy products, including cheeses, milk, yogurts, contain a high level of saturated fat. If you take more saturated fat it will lead to obesity and malnutrition. It can also increase the risk of liver disease.

Raw or Undercooked Fish

Raw or undercooked fish may contain many toxins that damage the liver and other digestive organs. They may also contain viruses, bacteria, and parasites that may infect the liver.

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Here is the short summary, which includes all the crucial details on various aspects of Jaundice.

Jaundice is nothing but a liver disease in which the skin and eyes change its color to yellow due to high levels of bilirubin. In general, there are mainly three types of jaundice— Hepatocellular jaundice, Hemolytic jaundice, and Obstructive jaundice.

However, the most common signs include fever, chills, abdominal pain, flu-like symptoms, change in skin color(Yellow color), and dark-colored urine.

To diagnose it, there are certain tests such as Full blood count (FBC), or complete blood count (CBC), and Hepatitis A, B, and C tests in adults. However, in newborn babies, Rhesus factor (Rh), a skin test or blood test can be used to estimate the bilirubin levels in the blood.

While talking about the treatment, in newborn babies, light therapy and exchange transfusion are very effective. But in adults, no treatment is required in jaundice.

At the end of the topic let’s find out some questions that users ask on Google.

General FAQ

Who invented phototherapy for jaundice?

Ans. In the 1950s, a talented nurse named Sister Jean Ward invented phototherapy.

What is the normal bilirubin level found in adults? 

Ans. Normal bilirubin levels lie between 0.2 – 1.2 mg/dL.

What are the signs and symptoms of jaundice in newborn babies and in adults?

Ans. Common symptoms in Newborn babies are yellowing of eyes and skin and bilirubin levels at peak. However in adults, symptoms like fever, chills, abdominal pain, and flu-like symptoms.

Is lemon good for jaundice?

Ans. Yes, any type of citric food is good for jaundice. This is because it has an anti-inflammatory property which helps in curing jaundice. In addition, lemon cleansers the bile duct and also protects the liver cells from any further damage.

What should not eat in jaundice?

Ans. These food you should avoid in jaundice are alcohol, raw or undercooked fish, packaged and smoked foods, saturated and trans fats, and refined carbohydrates.

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