Jaundice in Adults: Causes and cure

The common understanding of jaundice is that it is a disease that makes your skin and the whites of your eyes go yellow, which happens when there is a lot of bilirubin, a yellow substance, in your blood. But the fact is, that jaundice is not the disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition. It is when haemoglobin is broken down as a part of the normal process of recycling the old or damaged red blood cells when bilirubin forms. It travels through the liver in the bloodstream where it blends with bile and moves to the digestive tract which then gets eliminated from the body. While some bilirubin passes out in the stool and passes out in the urine.

The problem is when the bilirubin does not move through the liver and bile ducts very quickly that it starts building up in the blood and starts depositing in the skin giving it a yellow colour resulting in jaundice. The symptom is also judged through dark-coloured urine and light-coloured stool as well.


  • Hepatitis – an inflammation in the liver resulting in a damaged liver resulting in less movement of bilirubin in the bile ducts.
  • Alcoholic liver disease – Consuming a lot of alcohol can result in damaging their liver. Other drugs and toxins can also lead to cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Blockage of the bile duct – When the bile ducts are blocked the bilirubin starts to build up in the blood resulting in blockages caused by gallstone or cancer or liver disorders.
  • A reaction to a drug which might damage the liver, interfere in the flow of the bile or initiate the destruction of red blood cells resulting in producing extra bilirubin than the liver can handle

Other causes include hereditary disorders which decide how the body processes the bilirubin. Other is Gilbert syndrome where bilirubin levels are slightly increased but are not enough to cause jaundice, which is detected in a routine screen test but this does not cause symptoms and no problems.


The cure for jaundice is a watchful waiting where rest is advised along with a medical treatment which consists of antibiotics or blood transfusions if required. If there is a worst-case scenario a liver transplant is also done. Jaundice is not the disease, but indicative of the of liver dysfunction.  If the cause of the jaundice is a blocked bile duct, medical procedure might also be needed to open the ducts. This process is done through ERCP where an endoscopy instrument is threaded inside the liver.

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