What are the Symptoms of Jaundice?

By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
What are the Symptoms of Jaundice?

Jaundice refers to the yellowing of the skin or conjunctiva of the eye and other mucous membranes due to excessive bilirubin in the blood. It is a symptom of some underlying disease or health problem such as conditions in the liver, gallbladder or pancreas. Although it can be found in adults, it is a common condition in infants and, in most cases, is not a serious medical concern. For more information, we detail in this OneHowTo article what are the symptoms of jaundice as well as the factors that can cause it.

You may also be interested in: What Are The Causes Of Jaundice
Steps to follow:

Jaundice appears when excess bilirubin accumulates in the body. This is a yellowish substance that is generated following the break down of old red blood cells. It is subsequently transferred to the liver to be eliminated through faeces. However, if the proper disposal of bilirubin is prevented, it accumulates in the body and will lead to jaundice. This is what leads to the yellowing of skin, eyes and mucous membranes.


Factors that may cause jaundice include:

  • Liver infection caused by a virus or parasite, as might be the case with hepatitis.
  • Birth defects that complicate the breakdown of bilirubin.
  • Liver damage as a result of conditions like cirrhosis, infection or inflammation in the liver.
  • Gallstones or gallbladder problems.
  • Blood disorders.
  • Taking some drugs or alcohol in excess.
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • An accumulation of bile in the gallbladder during pregnancy may occur and this can result in jaundice.

For a more detailed description you should consult our article What are the Causes of Jaundice?

What are the Symptoms of Jaundice? - Step 2

The development of jaundice can occur both suddenly or over a long period of time, so we need to have an understanding of its common symptoms in order to seek the right treatment.

  • As previously mentioned, the most common (and visually startling) symptoms are yellowing of the skin, conjunctiva of the eye (when the white of the eye turns yellow) and discoloration of mucous membranes in the mouth or genitals (this means in the lining of their internal walls). In extreme cases of jaundice the yellowing may become brown.
  • Darker or brown urine.
  • Pale or clay-coloured stools.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Weight loss.
  • Headaches or abdominal pain.
  • Swelling of the abdomen due to excess fluid.
  • Mental confusion.

In addition to these symptoms others may also appear, but this depends on each individual case and they can, of course, be shared with symptoms of some other disease or infection.

What are the Symptoms of Jaundice? - Step 3

Given the presence of any of the symptoms described in the previous step, it is best you seek urgent medical advice to receive a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Treatment may vary from one patient to another depending on the underlying factor causing the jaundice. However, even if the issue is not jaundice you should seek medical advice if experiencing these symptoms.

As noted, jaundice is a common condition in newborn babies, making it possible that they have a yellowing of the skin, eyes or mouth. This happens because a baby's red blood cells have a shorter life span which increases the amount of bilirubin in the liver when these cells die. Where bilirubin levels are too high, mothers will be advised to discontinue breastfeeding, start a phototherapy treatment or perform a blood transfusion if necessary.

What are the Symptoms of Jaundice? - Step 4

Certain measures can be taken to prevent some of the causes of jaundice. These measures are indicated below:

  • Do not drink alcohol excessively.
  • Avoid taking drugs or having unprotected sex.
  • Avoid eating potentially contaminated food.
  • Avoid drugs that can cause hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells) or liver damage.
  • Vaccinate against hepatitis.

Jaundice can seem quite extreme due to the strange discoloration of skin and eyes, but seeking advice and beginning treatment quickly will reduce any damage it may cause.

To read more bout this topic, check out our articles on What are the Causes of Jaundice? and Why do I have Yellow Eyes?

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What are the Symptoms of Jaundice?, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.

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