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What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is not a disease in itself but a symptom that signals an underlying issue with the liver. If you’ve noticed a yellowish tint in your eyes or urine, it’s crucial to understand that this could be indicative of a liver problem. The diagnosis of jaundice is confirmed through a liver function test, a simple blood test that provides valuable insights into the health of your liver.

I. Causes of Jaundice

1. Unconjugated Hyperbilirubinemia: One common cause of jaundice is unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia. This occurs when there’s an imbalance in the breakdown and elimination of a pigment called bilirubin, leading to its accumulation and the characteristic yellow discoloration.

2. Hemolysis: Hemolysis, the premature breakdown of red blood cells, can contribute to jaundice. Understanding the health of your blood cells is crucial in identifying and addressing this cause.

3. Gilbert Syndrome: This genetic condition affects the processing of bilirubin and can result in jaundice, though it is usually harmless.

4. Conjugated Hyperbilirubinemia: This type of jaundice is linked to liver diseases, either inflammation or obstruction in the biliary system.

II. Liver Inflammation

1. Hepatitis A, B, C, and E: Viral infections, particularly hepatitis, can cause inflammation of the liver, leading to jaundice.

2. Alcoholic Hepatitis: Excessive alcohol consumption can harm the liver, causing inflammation and jaundice.

3. Wilson Disease: This rare condition involves an accumulation of copper in the liver, requiring specific treatment.

4. Hemochromatosis: Excessive iron in the liver, known as hemochromatosis, is another condition contributing to jaundice.

5. Autoimmune Hepatitis: In some cases, the body’s immune system attacks the liver, causing inflammation and jaundice.

III. Obstruction In Biliary System

1. Common Bile Duct (CBD) Stone: Stones in the common bile duct can obstruct the flow of bile, leading to jaundice.

2. Tumors: Tumors in the gallbladder, pancreas, or CBD can cause obstruction, resulting in jaundice.

3. Worms in CBD: Parasitic infestations can lead to blockages in the bile duct, contributing to jaundice.

4. Enlarged Lymph Nodes: If lymph nodes become enlarged and compress the CBD, it can obstruct bile flow, leading to jaundice.

IV. Workup For Jaundice

To determine the cause of jaundice, several tests are performed:

1. Liver Function Test (LFT): Provides insights into the liver’s health.

2. Viral Markers: Identifies the presence of viral infections.

3. USG Abdomen: Ultrasound helps visualize the abdominal organs.

4. CECT Abdomen and MRCP: These imaging techniques provide detailed information about the liver and biliary system.

V. Treatment Approaches

Treatment for jaundice varies based on the underlying cause:

1. Antiviral Medication: Used for viral hepatitis.

2. Alcohol Cessation: Crucial for cases related to excessive alcohol consumption.

3. Steroids: Prescribed for autoimmune hepatitis.

4. Chelation Therapy: Copper and iron chelation for Wilson disease and hemochromatosis, respectively.

5. ERCP: An endoscopic procedure to remove CBD stones.

6. Stent Placement: Used to bypass biliary obstruction caused by tumors.

Understanding the specific cause is vital for tailoring an effective treatment plan and ensuring a better prognosis.

While jaundice may seem like a straightforward symptom, its roots can be diverse. Seeking prompt medical attention and undergoing the necessary tests are essential steps in managing jaundice effectively. Remember, early detection and appropriate treatment can make a significant difference in your liver health.


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