What Causes Yellow Eyes in Adults?

Jaundice

Yellow eyes in adults can be a sign of a medical condition known as jaundice. Jaundice occurs when there is an excess of a yellow pigment called bilirubin in the bloodstream, and this pigment can accumulate in the tissues of the body, including the eyes, leading to their yellow appearance. Bilirubin is a waste product produced when old red blood cells are broken down and removed from the body.

The most common causes of jaundice and yellow eyes in adults include:

  1. Liver Disorders: Liver diseases such as hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), or liver failure can impair the liver’s ability to process and excrete bilirubin, resulting in its accumulation in the blood.
  2. Gallbladder or Bile Duct Disorders: Obstruction of the bile ducts by gallstones or other conditions can prevent the flow of bile from the liver to the intestines, leading to jaundice.
  3. Hemolytic Anemia: In conditions where red blood cells are destroyed more rapidly than usual (hemolysis), such as hemolytic anemia, the increased breakdown of red blood cells can result in elevated bilirubin levels.
  4. Infections: Certain infections, such as viral hepatitis (hepatitis A, B, C, etc.), can cause inflammation of the liver and lead to jaundice.
  5. Medications: Some medications can affect liver function and cause jaundice as a side effect.
  6. Pancreatic Disorders: Disorders of the pancreas, such as pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis, can sometimes lead to jaundice due to the obstruction of the bile ducts.
  7. Gilbert’s Syndrome: This is a relatively benign condition where there is a mild deficiency of an enzyme involved in processing bilirubin. It can cause mild jaundice but is not associated with any serious liver problems.

If an adult develops yellow eyes or notices any signs of jaundice, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Jaundice can be a symptom of various underlying health issues, some of which can be serious and require immediate treatment. A healthcare provider will perform a thorough evaluation, including blood tests and other diagnostic measures, to determine the cause of the yellowing and provide appropriate treatment.

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