Jaundice: Meaning, Diagnosis and Overview

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is yellowing of the skin and eyes. A medical condition in which too much bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia) a yellow pigment produced by the breakdown of hemoglobin from red blood cells is circulating in the blood. The excess bilirubin causes the skin, eyes, and mucus membranes in the mouth to turn a yellowish color.

Recovery Time

Recovery depends on the cause. For patients on antibiotics it can last up to few weeks. For patients who undergo a liver transplant, recovery can take about 12 weeks.


A doctor does diagnosis by physical examination and medical history of the patient. The severity of jaundice is determined by several tests:
  • Liver function test
  • Blood tests include bilirubin test, complete blood count (CBC), Hepatitis A, B, C tests
  • Imaging tests- abdominal ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT) scan, and/or Magnetic Resonance Cholangio-Pancreatography (MRCP) Tests

FAQs prepared by doctor

1. What is jaundice?
Jaundice, or icterus, is a yellowish discoloration of tissue resulting from the deposition of bilirubin.

2. What is bilirubin?
Bilirubin (formerly referred to as Haematoidin) is the yellow breakdown product of normal Hemecatabolism. Heme is found in hemoglobin, a principal component of Red Blood Cells. Old and worn out RBCs are normally catabolized in spleen and heme thereby produced is converted in bilirubin.

3. What are the symptoms of jaundice?
The most pervasive sign of jaundice is a yellow tinge to the skin and sclera (whites of the eyes). This usually starts at the head and spreads down the body. Other symptoms of jaundice include: Pruritus (itchiness), fatigue, abdominal pain, weight loss, vomiting, fever, paler than usual stools and dark urine.

4. Why sclera (whites of the eyes) does become yellow?
Serum bilirubin has affinity to elastin protein present in high amount in sclerae of the eye. The presence of scleral icterus indicates a serum bilirubin of at least (3 mg/dL).

5. What all foods need to be avoided?
Fried and fatty foods, too much butter and clarified butter, meats, tea, coffee, pickles, condiments and pulses and all fats like ghee, cream and oils need to be avoided as it contains cholesterol and fatty acids that is metabolized in liver. Since liver is under stress in jaundice hence such foods which are fibrous, fruit juices and plain bland diet should be consumed.

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