It is indeed not a comforting sign when you look at the mirror in the morning and you notice that there is a yellowish tinge in your eyes and face. Jaundice could indeed be a sign that something serious is going on, but it can also point towards a relatively mild condition. It is important to understand its causes and when to see your doctor regarding it.
Why does jaundice occur?
Jaundice is the result of the accumulation of a chemical known as bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is the end result of the breakdown of red blood cells in the circulation. It is then excreted in bile via the liver, and it never accumulates. Jaundice can occur due to a multitude of conditions including:
- Increased breakdown of red blood cells as in hemolytic conditions such as glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and autoimmune conditions like lupus.
- Liver conditions can cause jaundice due to the impairment of the liver’s ability to metabolize bilirubin. They include viral hepatitis, alcoholic hepatitis, inflammation of the liver in autoimmune conditions, liver tumors and congenital liver conditions such as Gilbert syndrome.
- Any cause of obstruction to the bile flow can cause jaundice due to the reflux of bile into the blood. It usually produces more severe jaundice than other causes. The most common cause of such obstruction is usually gallstones, which are originally present in the gallbladder and then dislodge into the main bile duct or due to tumors that are either in the liver, the pancreas head or any structure along the bile ducts including tumors of the bile ducts themselves.