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Jaundice is a condition in which the skin and whites of the eyes appear yellow because of the buildup of a yellow-brown pigment called bilirubin in the blood and skin.
Bilirubin is produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. The liver normally gets rid of bilirubin in bile (a fluid that helps the body digest fats).
Excess amounts of bilirubin can build up because of rapid destruction of red blood cells, liver diseases (such as hepatitis), blockage of the bile ducts leading from the gallbladder to the small intestine, or other problems. Bilirubin can be measured in the blood, where it is one indicator of a person's liver function.
Other symptoms that may occur as a result of excess bilirubin include dark urine, light-colored or whitish stools, and itching of the skin (pruritis).
If successful, treatment for the underlying cause of jaundice may cause the skin, eyes, urine, and stools to return to their normal color.
Current as of: September 8, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & W. Thomas London MD - Hepatology
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