Jaundice means a yellow discoloration in the skin or the whites of the eyes. This is due to excessive amounts of bile in the blood stream.
Jaundice may arise from a number of different causes. Some types of Jaundice arise from the condition outside the liver. In some causes the patient may have Jaundice in sub clinical form. The bile pigment may be elevated but not sufficiently to actually discolor the skin.
Normally there is a certain rate at which the red blood cells are broken down and destroyed in the body. The average life of red cell is about four months or 120 days. But certain disease conditions may cause an excessive breakdown of red cells and this increases the bile pigment in the blood. Such as rapid breakdown of cells may be seen in hemolytic anemia, sickle cell anemia, pernicious anemia, and jaundice of newborn, as well as in malaria, pneumonia, yellow fever, and certain bacteria infections of the blood.
Obstructive Jaundice means that the bile is backing up into the blood stream because of some obstruction involving the larger bile ducts. The normal liver produces about pint of bile every twenty four hours. This bile is transported either to the gallbladder where it is concentrated and becomes green, or else passes directly to the small intestine where it acts as a lubricant.
Bile gives color to the feces. When bile is absent, the stools become every light, almost white in color. Anything that obstructs the flow of bile to the intestine will not only produce light colored stools but ma also result in jaundice. The obstruction may be due to a stone or stricture in the bile ducts, or perhaps to hepatitis or cirrhosis of fever, even cancer in the head of pancreas.
Stones in the common duct are a frequent cause of jaundice. The patients notes a sharp, sudden pain in the upper part of the abdomen near the mid line. Fever soon develops, and after few hours of days, jaundice will usually appear. It is first seen in the whites of the eyes, later spreading to all the skin and mucous membranes of the body.
Jaundice is particularly common in middle aged ladies who have several children. Jaundice due to cancer comes on more slowly and there is little or no pain at the beginning. In either case the jaundice will continue until the obstruction is removed, and may last for weeks or months, depending on the patient’s general condition. In acute hepatitis, on the other hand, the jaundice appears quickly but usually subsides within a week or ten days.
One must first find the cause of the jaundice. If the trouble is due to some parasites, such as malaria, suitable medications may soon bring the condition under control. If the jaundice is due to presence of a stone or other obstruction, surgery will be needed for relief and cure. The sooner the obstruction is relieved the less liver damage. The patient should kept in a low fat diet. Seriously ill patient should always be treated in hospital where they can be fed intravenously if needed. In cases of serious bleeding, vitamin K should administered, preferably by injection during the acute phase of the disease, and later in the form or tablets.