Jaundice sometimes occurs when your liver cannot efficiently process the red blood cells when they break down. In jaundice the whites of your eyes, the skin and the mucous membrane turn yellow-orange due to a high level of bilirubin. It is a brownish yellow substance found in bile. Bilirubin is produced when your liver breaks down old red blood cells. It is normally removed from the body through stool. Surprisingly, the jaundice conditions – the yellowing of skin and the eyes – is not an illness in itself. It is just a symptom of other medical conditions that are taking place inside the body. As mentioned above, the jaundice conditions show when the body cannot get rid of the excess bilirubin. In most of the cases, there is a problem in the liver and hence, jaundice is normally considered as a liver-related problem. A timely jaundice test can help you assess the bilirubin levels as well as other necessary conditions that are making you appear yellow.
Jaundice is caused by too much bilirubin in the blood. The condition is also known as hyperbilirubinemia. Bilirubin is formed when hemoglobin – the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen to different parts of your body – breaks down. This is a normal process of recycling old or damaged red blood cells. Normally bilirubin is carried to the liver through the bloodstream. From the liver, it is sent to the digestive tract and from there, it comes out through urine and excreta. When enough bilirubin is not moved from the liver and does not go out of the body, it builds up in the blood and gets deposited in the skin. This gives the patients the yellow color of jaundice.
Since it happens due to liver malfunction, the associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The digestive system is severely compromised.
For a prompt jaundice test you may need a series of tests including bilirubin total test, bilirubin direct test, urine routine & microscopy, and of course, the liver function test.
The following reasons can cause jaundice:
Hepatitis: This is an infection of the liver caused by a virus. There are different types of hepatitis that are caused by different viruses. Based on the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend a hepatitis test along with a jaundice test.
Alcohol-related liver damage: If you have been consuming alcohol for 8-10 years non-stop, it can negatively affect your liver. It is also called alcoholic hepatitis liver cirrhosis.
Pancreatic cancer: Pancreatic cancer blocks the bile duct due to the tumor. Consequently, bilirubin builds up in the body, resulting in jaundice.
Blocked bile ducts: It is the bile ducts that carry the bile from the liver and gallbladder to the small intestine. Due to gallbladder stone or cancer or a liver disease, sometimes the bile ducts get blocked. As a result, bilirubin is not exited from the system. Different jaundice tests may be recommended by your doctor.
Medication side effects: Continuous consumption of paracetamol, birth control pills and medicines containing steroids can give your liver disease which can result in jaundice-like symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important to get a jaundice test done?
Jaundice – the yellowing of the skin, the whites of the eyes and the mucous membrane – may indicate a severe liver disease, pancreatic cancer, gallbladder stone and hepatitis. Hence, you should get your jaundice test done urgently if you experience any one of the symptoms associated with jaundice.
Is jaundice a lifestyle-related ailment?
Although, in some cases, for example hepatitis, jaundice can occur due to virus infection, sometimes it can also be caused by an unhygienic lifestyle or excessive alcohol consumption for a long time.
How long does it take to cure jaundice?
It depends on what has caused jaundice. If the underlying cause is resolved soon, for example hepatitis A or a drug reaction or a toxic reaction or even a bile duct that is now unblocked, jaundice may go away soon (hence, it is important that you get your jaundice test done as early as possible). You need to take dietary precautions for a long time, sometimes even six months. If jaundice has been caused by hepatitis B or C or due to excessive alcohol consumption, the symptoms of jaundice can be long lasting.
Can jaundice be prevented with a jaundice test?
There are definitely some tests that can indicate whether your jaundice-prone or not, if you want to prevent lifestyle-related jaundice, you can definitely prevent it. For example, stop consuming alcohol every day because this can damage your liver which in turn results in jaundice. Practice good hygiene. Drink at least eight glasses of fluids everyday so that your system is cleaned and flushed. Increase the consumption of fruits like papaya and mango, which are rich in digestive enzymes. Regularly consume vegetables and fruits. You may also consume high fiber foods such as oatmeal, berries, and almonds.
How is the jaundice test done?
For jaundice -related tests, a phlebotomist will draw blood from your arm and then submit the sample to the lab. Different tests can be done on your blood to find traces of bilirubin total and bilirubin direct. Liver function test can also be performed with a serum sample. In some instances you may also need to submit your urine sample.