Jaundice is a medical condition that can happen in adults, children, and babies. It occurs when too much bilirubin is present in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a compound that is produced when hemoglobin from red blood cells breaks down. In babies, the condition usually goes away without assistance. In adults, it can be an indication of a bigger problem.
The Symptoms of Jaundice
The most well-known symptom of jaundice is the yellowing effect it has on skin and eyes. This isn’t the only change you may notice. Other symptoms include:
- Abdominal swelling or pain
- Stool that is light gray or yellow
- Dark urine
Why Should You See a Doctor About Jaundice?
The main reason to see a doctor about jaundice is not because of the condition itself, but rather what’s causing it. In adults, jaundice can be an indication of a serious health problem. Possible causes include:
- Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis)
- Bile duct obstruction
- Pancreatic cancer
- Congenital disorders
A gastroenterologist can determine the cause of jaundice and recommend the right treatment options. Ignoring the problem will only allow the cause to worsen and could lead to severe symptoms or even death.
Observation and a physical exam are the simplest ways to diagnose jaundice. To determine the cause, your doctor may ask you to undergo a:
- Serum bilirubin test to measure bilirubin concentration in blood
- Complete blood count to gather information on red and white blood cells and platelets
- Prothrombin time to measure blood clotting
- Abdominal ultrasound to get a closer look at liver condition
- Liver biopsy