Jaundice Overview: What Causes Jaundice in Children & Adults?

Learn the symptoms of jaundice in newborns and adults, and find out how it's treated.

Do you know the typical symptoms that indicate that you are struggling with Jaundice?

Jaundice Overview: What Causes Jaundice in Children & Adults?
Jaundice causes your skin and the whites of your eyes to turn yellow. Shutterstock Images

Although Jaundice can affect men and women of all ages, it is commonly diagnosed among newborns[1].

Nearly 60 to 80% of the preterm newborns develop Jaundice in their early lives.

So if you are counting the days of the last ninth month and waiting for your baby, it is always for the best to get informed of the potential risks.

And since Jaundice is one of them, you have come to the right place!

We are here to raise the awareness on the topic of Jaundice and to fulfill that we are going to share everything that is essential for all of you, especially the moms-to-be to know about Jaundice!

To begin, let’s define what Jaundice is and what causes it!

What is Jaundice and What are its Causes?

Jaundice is the term that is used to refer to ‘hyperbilirubinemia’ – an increase of bilirubin above the normal ranges.

It is actually a condition that occurs as a result of hyperbilirubinemia.

But do you know what bilirubin is?

Bilirubin is an orange-yellow pigment that forms because of the breakdown of hemoglobin and it is later extracted in the bile.

So how do the levels of bilirubin increase to the point that our skin and eyes turn yellow – which are the most characteristic signs of Jaundice that we will discuss later?

The levels of bilirubin[2] commonly increase as a result of damage or an infection to the process of hemoglobin breakdown and the extraction of the bilirubin in the bile.

According to which level has the damage or infection happened, we differ three types of Jaundice.

  • Pre-hepatic Jaundice – When an infection or damage makes the red blood cells to break down sooner than needed, the hemoglobin breaks down and the levels of bilirubin are increased instantly.
  • Intra-hepatic Jaundice – In case the liver is damaged because of various reasons such as hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, liver cancer, drug use and etc. it will not be able to process the bilirubin as normal and as a result, its levels increase.
  • Post-hepatic Jaundice – When the removal process of the bilirubin is disrupted because of any reasons such as gallstones, pancreatitis and etc. the symptoms of Jaundice occur.
  • Newborn Jaundice – We will mention newborn Jaundice as a separate type to explain the reasons for its occurrence. As we mentioned in the introduction of this article, nearly 60 to 80% of the preterm newborns are diagnosed with Jaundice each year.

Since we are talking about preterm babies, you probably know that because of their early birth, their bodies have not developed fully before they are born.

And because often, it is the gastrointestinal system that is not fully developed, the mechanisms responsible for the removal of the bilirubin are undeveloped.

This results in the symptoms of Jaundice being developed.

What are the Symptoms of Jaundice?

We already mentioned the most characteristic symptoms of Jaundice – the yellow tinge of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

However, a noticeable yellow color can also affect the mucous membranes in the mouth and the nose.

The yellowing of the skin starts at your head and then spreads down to the rest of your body.

Your stool and urine may also change their usual color with your stool becoming paler and your urine getting darker than usual.

You may also experience fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, fever and itchiness.

If you notice any of the previously mentioned symptoms it is essential to contact your doctor as soon as possible to prevent any additional risks from developing and getting a proper treatment plan assigned to you so that all the symptoms can go away in no time.

Jaundice Info
If you experience these signs & symptoms, then it may lead to Liver Disease

How is Jaundice Diagnosed?

Jaundice is easily diagnosed because of the characteristic symptoms that it causes.

However, additional various tests will be performed in order for your doctor to find out how severe it really is and what is the cause behind it.

A standard blood test and urine test will be surely performed among the other ones.

If your doctor suspects that your Jaundice is either intra or post Jaundice[3], your doctor will probably perform imaging tests in order to check for any abnormalities in your liver or bile systems.

How is Jaundice Treated?

In order for the proper treatment plan to be determined, it is essential that all the needed tests are performed in order to find out the exact cause that is behind Jaundice.

We will list some of the most common treatment plans according to the common causes of Jaundice.

  • Anemia – Induced Jaundice – It is treated by increasing the iron levels in your blood by taking iron supplements.
  • Hepatitis – Induced Jaundice – It is treated by taking proper steroid medications.
  • Obstruction – induced Jaundice – it is treated by removing the cause of obstruction through a surgical intervention.
  • Medical – Induced Jaundice – it is treated by taking alternative medications.

What Can You do to Prevent Jaundice?

Prevent Jaundice
Eating healthy & exercise can help you to prevent any dreadful diseases. Shutterstock Images

There are quite a few things that you can do in order to make sure that you prevent Jaundice.

This, of course, applies only to adults.

It is difficult and almost impossible to prevent Jaundice in preterm newborns.

The first thing is to watch over your diet – a healthy diet is something that your body and mind will benefit from making sure that you function right.

One other thing is making sure that you do not exceed the daily alcohol consummation[4].

Stay away from any illegal drugs, to decrease the risk of hepatitis that can eventually lead to Jaundice and other life-risking conditions.

Make sure that you are vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B, especially if you are visiting any of the high-risk countries in the world.

Also, do not forget the importance of exercising since it is the number one way to make your body strong and healthy and able to fight all the potential health risks.


Protect yourself against Jaundice by acknowledging all the essential facts about it and of course, the ways that you can keep your body safe against it.

We sure hope that the information that we have shared in our article will help you fulfill just that and answer any questions that you might have about the topic of Jaundice.

And of course, do not hesitate to ask for help if you ever notice something unusual about your body!

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Dr. Taylor Bean, ND

Dr. Taylor Bean is a primary care physician practicing evidence-based medicine focusing on prevention and integrative medicine. Dr. Bea

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