What is the Main Cause of Jaundice?


Jaundice is a condition characterized by yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes due to elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced during the breakdown of red blood cells and is normally processed and excreted by the liver. Jaundice can occur when there is an imbalance between the production, processing, and excretion of bilirubin, and it can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Excessive breakdown of red blood cells: When red blood cells are broken down at an abnormally high rate, such as in hemolytic anemias or conditions causing rapid destruction of red blood cells, the liver may become overwhelmed with processing the resulting bilirubin, leading to jaundice.
  • Liver diseases: Liver diseases or disorders that impair the liver’s ability to process and excrete bilirubin can cause jaundice. These conditions may include:
    • Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver, which can be caused by viral infections (hepatitis A, B, C, etc.), autoimmune reactions, alcohol abuse, or certain medications.
    • Cirrhosis: Scarring of the liver tissue due to chronic liver damage from conditions such as chronic hepatitis, alcohol abuse, or fatty liver disease.
    • Alcoholic liver disease: Damage to the liver caused by chronic alcohol abuse, leading to impaired liver function and jaundice.
    • Liver cancer: Malignant tumors affecting the liver can obstruct bile flow and impair liver function, leading to jaundice.
    • Gilbert syndrome: A benign genetic disorder characterized by mild elevation of bilirubin levels due to decreased activity of the enzyme responsible for bilirubin processing in the liver.
  • Obstruction of bile flow: Blockage or obstruction of the bile ducts, which carry bile from the liver to the intestines, can prevent bilirubin from being excreted properly, leading to its accumulation in the blood and subsequent jaundice. Causes of bile duct obstruction may include:
    • Gallstones: Hardened deposits in the gallbladder or bile ducts that can obstruct bile flow.
    • Biliary strictures: Narrowing or scarring of the bile ducts due to inflammation, injury, or tumors.
    • Pancreatic cancer: Tumors in the pancreas can compress or obstruct the bile ducts, leading to jaundice.
  • Infections: Certain infections, such as malaria or sepsis, can cause jaundice by increasing the breakdown of red blood cells or affecting liver function.
  • Newborn jaundice: Jaundice is common in newborns due to factors such as immature liver function, rapid breakdown of fetal red blood cells, or breastfeeding difficulties.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as certain antibiotics, antivirals, or chemotherapy drugs, can cause jaundice as a side effect by affecting liver function or bile flow.

The specific cause of jaundice can vary depending on individual factors such as age, medical history, and underlying health conditions. Prompt medical evaluation is important for determining the underlying cause of jaundice and initiating appropriate treatment.

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