Jaundice occurs when levels of a yellow-brown pigment
called bilirubin build up in the blood and skin. Bilirubin, which is produced
by the breakdown of red blood cells, is normally eliminated by the liver in
bile (a fluid that helps the body digest fats). Too much bilirubin can cause
the skin and eyes to look yellow.
Bilirubin can build up because
of rapid destruction of red blood cells, liver diseases (such as
hepatitis), blockage of the bile ducts leading from
gallbladder to the
small intestine, or other problems. Bilirubin can be
measured in the blood. Your bilirubin level provides information about how well
your liver is working.
Other symptoms of high bilirubin
Light-colored or whitish
The skin, eyes, urine, and stools will usually return to
their normal color as the jaundice gets better.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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