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A very noticeable yellowish tint to your skin and the whites of the eyes could mean jaundice, which usually indicates a problem with the liver or bile ducts. In an interaction with the OnlyMyHealth team, Dr. Akash Shukla, Director and Consultant Hepatology, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai explains how jaundice develops and the many causes that lead to it.

“Liver is one of the vital organs in the body, which aids in detoxification,” said Dr. Shukla, adding, “Many harmful substances are removed from the body. When the liver is not performing this function, it leads to a buildup of a waste product called bilirubin in the blood. Normally, bilirubin is excreted by the liver, through the bile ducts in the intestines, and then in the stool. skin yellow.

The prevalence of jaundice in newborns

According to WebMD, jaundice is rare in adults. Research indicates that jaundice is a common condition in newborns, with approximately 60% of term and 80% of preterm newborns developing clinical jaundice within the first week after birth. This is also called neonatal jaundice. Britain’s National Health Services (NHS) suggests that an estimated six in ten babies develop jaundice, including eight in ten babies born prematurely before the 37th week of pregnancy.

Common causes of jaundice

According to Dr. Shukla, jaundice is a condition characterized by the yellowing of the skin and eyes due to an elevated level of bilirubin in the blood. There are several common causes of jaundice, including:


Inflammation of the liver caused by viral infections (hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E) or other factors such as alcohol abuse, autoimmune disorders, or certain medications.

Alcoholic liver disease

Excessive and long-term alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage, scarring (cirrhosis) and impaired liver function, resulting in jaundice.


Chronic liver disease characterized by the formation of scar tissue in the liver. It can be caused by hepatitis, alcohol abuse, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), autoimmune disorders, or genetic disorders.

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When solid particles formed from bile (gallstones) block the bile ducts, it can lead to jaundice. The obstruction prevents the flow of bile from the liver to the intestines.

Hemolytic anemia

A condition in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than they are created, leading to increased production of bilirubin. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including certain medications, autoimmune conditions, or hereditary conditions.

Gilbert’s syndrome

A relatively common hereditary condition in which the liver has difficulty processing bilirubin. This can result in mild jaundice, especially during times of stress, illness or fasting.

Drug-induced liver injury

Certain medications, such as acetaminophen (acetaminophen) in high doses, some antibiotics, and certain herbal supplements, can cause liver damage and result in jaundice.

Pancreatic cancer

Tumors in the pancreas can clog the bile duct, leading to jaundice.

Bile duct disorders

Conditions affecting the bile ducts or gallbladder, such as cholangitis, cholecystitis, or primary biliary cholangitis, can cause jaundice.

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy

A condition that occurs during pregnancy, which reduces the flow of bile and causes jaundice.


Jaundice serves as a visible indication of an underlying problem affecting the liver, bile ducts, or red blood cells. If you or someone you know is experiencing jaundice, it is essential to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can help relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve overall health outcomes.

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