What Causes Yellow Eyes?

Causes of Yellow Eyes

Yellow eyes, also known as jaundice, occur when there is a buildup of a yellow pigment called bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a waste product produced by the normal breakdown of red blood cells in the liver. Normally, the liver processes bilirubin and excretes it in the bile, which is then eliminated from the body through the digestive system. However, if something disrupts this process, bilirubin can accumulate in the blood and tissues, leading to yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (sclera). Several underlying conditions can cause yellow eyes:

  • Liver Diseases: Yellow eyes are most commonly associated with liver diseases that impair the liver’s ability to process bilirubin. Common liver conditions that can cause jaundice include:
    • Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver caused by viral infections (hepatitis A, B, C, etc.) or other factors.
    • Cirrhosis: Scarring of the liver due to chronic liver diseases, such as alcohol-related liver disease or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
    • Alcoholic Liver Disease: Caused by excessive alcohol consumption, leading to liver damage and dysfunction.
    • Liver Cancer: Tumors in the liver can obstruct bile flow and lead to jaundice.
    • Gilbert’s Syndrome: A benign genetic condition where the liver has a reduced ability to process bilirubin efficiently, leading to mild jaundice.
  • Gallbladder Diseases: Conditions affecting the gallbladder or bile ducts can obstruct the flow of bile, leading to the accumulation of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Examples include gallstones and cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder).
  • Pancreatic Disorders: Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can lead to jaundice when it affects the nearby bile ducts.
  • Hemolytic Anemia: In some cases, an excessive breakdown of red blood cells can result in an increased production of bilirubin, overwhelming the liver’s ability to process it.
  • Infections: Certain infections, such as malaria, can cause the destruction of red blood cells, leading to jaundice.
  • Medications: Some medications can cause a condition known as drug-induced cholestasis, where bile flow is reduced, resulting in jaundice.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune conditions that affect the liver, such as autoimmune hepatitis or primary biliary cholangitis, can lead to jaundice.
  • Biliary Atresia: A rare congenital condition where the bile ducts are blocked or absent, leading to jaundice in infants.

If you or someone you know experiences yellow eyes or other symptoms of jaundice, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. Jaundice can be a sign of a serious underlying condition that requires medical evaluation and treatment. A healthcare professional will perform a physical examination, review medical history, and conduct various tests to determine the cause of the yellowing and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

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