Throughout pregnancy, women take precautions and do their best to ensure they deliver a happy, wholesome, and healthy baby. However, even in the best of situations with a perfect pregnancy, the baby may encounter an issue. All too common is a baby who comes seemingly perfectly healthy except for one thing—their body is yellow.
Not slightly yellow as if they had received a tan, but yellow as if they had consumed something that magically turned them the color of a lemon.
This condition is called Jaundice. Medically known as Icterus, the baby has a yellowing or greenish hue to their eyes and skin. While it may seem trivial to some, it’s actually a very serious matter altogether. Not only does it signify that something is wrong, but it also a sign that there are other illnesses that sometimes lie beneath.
Jaundice is defined as the yellowing of the pigmentation of the skin, tissues or bodily fluids that is usually caused by the deposition of bile pigments, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary. It is often brought up with another medical term cholestasis, a condition in which the rate of bile flow is decreased. Jaundice was first discovered around a 1,000 years ago by the ancient Chinese and what we sometimes don’t know about it is alarming.
20 Adult Causes Do Exist
Jaundice has many causes ranging from blood disorders and liver diseases to heart conditions and gallbladder issues. It is typically rare when it comes to adults, as research shows via WebMD. Most cases of jaundice are attributed to other conditions.
That is why if you are an adult who has been diagnosed, you will find that the doctor isn’t actually treating the symptoms that you are describing, but rather they are performing tests to treat or eradicate the underlying causes of your condition. So, if you're tired of walking around with a yellowish tint to your skin, then rest assured that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and the doc is on your side on this one.
19 Newborn Cases Just Draw More Awareness
Most newborn cases of jaundice are noticed immediately after birth. Their skin produces a yellowish hue as well as their eyes, and this typically lasts up through their first week of life. As per the NHS, this can be treated by phototherapy, which means exposing the newborn to light. This will lower their levels of bilirubin.
Blue phototherapy lights aren't always needed, and consistent breastfeeding is an equally beneficial way to help the body excrete that excess bilirubin.
In milder cases, jaundice can be treated with non-medical interventions, such as fluorescent lighting found in hospital rooms or offices, or outside sources of sunlight.
18 Keep Watch Over New Babies
Most moms and dads head home with the baby from the hospital within 24 to 48 hours of them being born. Jaundice is rarely present at birth. Up until then, Mom's body does the work of excreting billirubin for the baby. It is only around 24 hours after the baby is born that it may start to build up in their little body. The first sign may not be yellowing of the skin, but the yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
Parents need to keep vigil over their newborns and look for these signs that could warrant a trip to the doctor just to make sure the levels aren't too high. Science-Based Medicine notes that fatigued parents who are busy trying to adjust to their new lifestyle and new family member may easily overlook these signs if they aren't actively looking for them.
17 That Bilirubin Isn’t As Normal As We Think
Most people have no idea what bilirubin is or exactly what it’s role is inside of our bodies. Bilirubin is actually an orange pigment that is responsible for our red blood cells breaking down. WebMD notes, the normal levels for this are 0.2mg/dl to 1.2 mg.dl, and anything outside of this range is cause for concern.
Healthy babies are likely to have jaundice if their levels are 5-6mg/dl for formula-fed babies and 12 mg/dl for breastfed babies. According to Bellybelly, this accounts for about 60% of full-term babies and 80% of premature babies in their first week of birth. These numbers are different for adults.
16 What It Does To The Gallbladder
Your gallbladder is one of those organs that have no critical life-altering function. It’s one of the very few organs that you have but can definitely survive without.
In the case of jaundice, however, it is essential. This is because bilirubin basically leaves the liver and is transported by the gallbladder—after temporary storage—to be delivered to the intestine.
As per Body And Health, if the bile ducts is dealing with a blockage, the bile will get backed up and revert to the liver and leak into the bloodstream instead of going to the intestines. This can lead to other symptoms that begin to affect the liver and the entire body.
15 Short-Term Effects Are Numerous
Most people who end up with a case of jaundice don’t really have any pressing issues or damage as a result of it occurring–such as newborns, liver patients or the elderly. According to Health Day, most research trials and evidence regarding short-term effects are based on studies conducted on newborns.
Among 700 babies tested, all of them responded well to different types of therapies that included phototherapy, increased hydration, and exchange therapy—also called exchange transfusion. This is a therapy that includes the process of removing affected individuals' blood and fully replacing it with the blood and plasma of another individual.
14 Long-Term Effects Can Be Serious
People who have jaundice due to serious underlying issues have been known to have some residual issues that have carried on throughout most or all of their lives. Acute Care Testing says, one of the most prevalent long-term residual effects of having jaundice is the condition known as kernicterus—which is defined as a chronic condition where people have seriously high levels of bilirubin.
In turn, this can cause the brain to incur severe damage. This is also accompanied by Cerebral Palsy and total loss of hearing abilities. There is no cure for this condition as it is currently irreversible. So, treating the baby promptly is important.
13 The Statistics Are Rarely Discussed
While essentially everything has a worst-case rate, jaundice is no exception. According to Research Gate, cases of infants passing from jaundice first began occurring and were thoroughly researched in the early 1800s after an outbreak of jaundice claimed the lives of 24 women on a French Caribbean Island.
Since then, women have been passing at alarming rates of this disease, which seemed to mysteriously strike pregnant mamas—most of whom had an additional co-infection or the beginning stages of the Hepatitis E Virus. These outbreaks continued into the 20th century plaguing pregnant women, fetuses and infants in the countries of Asia, Europe, and Africa.
12 There Are Plenty of Treatments
Most treatments for jaundice consist of getting different forms or a combination of therapies. There are three types of therapies for patients common in the United States. Phototherapy is known as the process of placing the baby beneath a light source at different intervals throughout the day.
Enteral hydration is when babies in severe condition are given fluids such as water or saline solution via a feeding tube. Otherwise, breast is best on that one—or formula, although it won't digest and excrete bilirubin as quickly as breastmilk will.
Preventative treatments consist of providing a baby with set antibiotic medications, steroidal supplements or iron-containing medications–which is mostly done to assuage underlying causes or increase bilirubin or iron levels, as per Medical News Today.
11 Testing For Jaundice Is Pretty Straightforward
Jaundice can be tested for by way of a couple of different methods. The most well-known is the observations of pigmentation changes in the skin or eye areas. There have also been many types of blood testing developed to detect abnormalities in the bloodstream.
These tests range from full blood counts, erythrocyte sedimentation rates, liver functions, kidney functions, serum ceruloplasmin, and antibody testing to iron studies and fragility testing, according to Right Diagnosis. There are also multiple other types of testing that can be done on a persons liver and kidneys via urinalysis, which is by a collection of urine samples to check for abnormalities. Obviously, though, this is tougher for babies.
10 Hereditary Or Not?
While many medical conditions have been revealed to be hereditary, this is not the case with jaundice. Except in rare circumstances as discovered in the case of Congenital Hemolytic Jaundice also known as Hereditary Spherocytosis. As per MedicineNet, this happens when a person has an inherited disorder of “the red blood cell membrane”—which basically means that the red blood cells are smaller and more fragile than normal.
Some telltale symptoms of this may include low iron counts, yellowing of the skin and an abnormally large spleen. Getting tested for a protein deficiency called Ankyrin or ANK1 will allow early detection.
9 Eat The Rainbow
While many of us love to eat our fruits and vegetables—whether perfectly made in a salad, mixed into a delightful smoothie or by itself on a hot summers day—there is such thing as having too many. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, there is a little-known condition called Carotenemia, which is caused by increased levels of beta-carotene in their blood.
This comes from consuming extreme amounts of foods such as squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots, which are carotene-rich. People often appear to have orangish or yellowish skin as a result, according to Emedicine. While not a form of jaundice, it'll have most concerned about their liver until the doc gives them the A-okay.
8 What About The Spleen?
Some people can get disorders affecting the spleen such as Splenomegaly, a condition by which the spleen area is enlarged to a great extent. This organ is directly below your ribcage and toward your lower back area. Its main function is to rid the body’s blood cells of harmful bacteria, foreign particles and bits of tissue as the blood passes through it, WebMD notes.
The spleen also filters abnormal blood cells as they are traveling to their next destination in the body. Having an enlarged spleen means several different factors may be occurring, such as jaundice, which can cause some serious complications requiring removal.
7 What It Means For Baby's Bile Ducts
Baby's bile ducts are an intricate maze. They are a system of tiny tubes that pass from the liver to the small intestine. Their role is to transport a fluid called bile—which is a dark green and sometimes yellowish fluid—to the small intestine via the liver and gallbladder. Often, those ducts can become blocked.
This then reverts back into the bloodstream and causes jaundice. In rare circumstances, the factor that is causing a blocked bile duct comes in the form of a tumour, which is also known as bile duct cancer. People experiencing this may exhibit symptoms such as weight loss, fever, severe itching, and a decrease in appetite according to Cancer.net.
6 It Can Be Caused By Hemolytic Anemia
Hemolytic Anemia is a medical condition that affects the lifespan of the red blood cells in the body. Typically, those cells survive for about 120 days on average. In patients with Hemolytic Anemia, their blood cells are plagues by lower levels of hemoglobin as well as increased amounts of indirect bilirubin.
This condition generally comes in two separate forms that are inherited or acquired over a person's lifetime. When a person inherits the disease, it is from having a glucose deficiency known as GP6D—one of the most common in the human species.
This is the type that is acquired is from NSAIDs, antibiotics or autoimmune diseases, as per Active Beat. It is important to note this condition can be caused by the vitamin K injection, which parents can opt out of if they so choose.
5 Baby Can Get It From Gilbert Syndrome
Gilbert Syndrome is another hereditary disorder that affects the liver. Some of the symptoms include periodic occurrences of high indirect bilirubin levels in the bloodstream. There are two types, one called indirect bilirubin, and the other one is called unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia.
With the latter, it is typically known to be exacerbated by menstruation, lack of sleep, dehydration, and some illnesses. Most people—as many as 30%—have no idea that they are dealing with this condition. It currently affects around 5% of the population and generally has no recommended treatment according to Syndrome.org. Monitoring for this condition is jaundice isn't easily treated at birth is important.
4 A More Common Cause: Gallstones
Gallstones are characterized by hardened cholesterol deposits that form inside of the gallbladder. They can range in size from a grain of rice to as big as a golf ball. Everyone knows that gallstones are some of the most painful things in existence, especially since they have to pass through the bladder.
The pain can occur in different areas of the body—including between the shoulders and the upper abdomen—and it can last over a few hours. According to the Mayo Clinic, many physicians believe that there are a few causes for this, such as high cholesterol in the liver, abnormally high levels of bilirubin in the bile (jaundice) or an improperly functioning gallbladder.
3 It Is A Side Effect Of Dubin Johnson Syndrome
Dubin Johnson Syndrome is a medical condition that is defined by a person having elevated levels of direct bilirubin. It is another rare genetic disorder that is inherited by receiving two defective genes from both parents.
Because of the deposits that are made being affected, physicians have noticed that patients who deal with this condition have a liver that often appears blackened in colour—which is also enlarged at times, as per Active Beat.
People with this disorder have jaundice that lasts over a lifetime, but it is heavily noticed at the onset of puberty, beginning of pregnancy and in those who use hormonal birth control.
2 Why Parents Should Be Worried About The Pancreas
The pancreas serves as an organ that lies just behind the stomach, and its main functions are to distribute enzymes which are passed on to the small intestine and to release insulin—the precursor to diabetes.
When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it’s a result of the normally dormant enzymes becoming reactivated. Some symptoms include nausea, increased heart rate, and jaundice.
The blockage of a bile duct is a side effect of jaundice, which in turn causes pancreatitis to be exacerbated, according to Active Beat. This is also an extremely rare condition as there have been less than 20,000 cases diagnosed in the United States.
1 A Case Of Crigler Najjar Syndrome
A relatively unknown medical condition in the United States is Crigler Najjar Syndrome. This is a syndrome where a person inherits duplicate copies of a gene that causes them to have elevated indirect bilirubin levels in their bloodstream. Another name for this type of bilirubin issue is conjugated hyperbilirubinemia.
This condition is usually detected in affected newborns at birth, and it has to be passed on by both parents carrying the defective genes. The first type can cause serious issues, like brain damage or the loss of life, via Active Beat. The second type isn’t as severe and allows for individuals to live well into adulthood.