Yellowing of the skin and whites of your eyes (sclera) is a condition that is medically termed as jaundice. Jaundice itself is a symptom that can be suggestive of several underlying diseases. Our skin turns yellow when
- There is too much destruction of red blood cells
- There is excess bilirubin in your blood
- Liver or kidneys are not functioning at their best
Breakdown of dead red blood cells yields a yellow pigment called bilirubin. If there is an excess breakdown of RBCs, this pigment gets accumulated in the skin and eyes and leads to jaundice. In severe cases, the sclera of your eyes may turn orange or brown coloured. You may also have pale stools and dark urine.
There is a normal breakdown of old red blood cells (cell turnover) in the liver after every 120 days. Break down of these RBCs produce bilirubin that in normal circumstances is excreted by the kidneys. Jaundice develops when there is an abnormal destruction of RBCs (excessive hemolysis), the liver is not metabolising bilirubin or any default in the excreting organs, i.e., the kidneys. Jaundice is not a disease itself and in adults, it is often suggestive of:
- Liver infection
- Alcohol abuse
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- Liver cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Blood disorders (e.g. hemolytic anaemias)
- Parasites in the liver
- Tests and Diagnosis
There are multiple diagnostic tests for diagnosing jaundice. These include;
- Blood tests (TLC, DLC, Hb)
- Liver function tests to evaluate certain proteins and enzymes
- CBC (Complete blood count)
- Imaging studies (abdominal ultrasounds, CT scans, liver biopsies and microscopic examination).
As you know that jaundice itself is just a symptom so it is actually the treatment of underlying cause that subsides jaundice. The type of treatment depends largely on the causative factor. Jaundice will automatically subside once the right treatment of disease begins and your yellow skin and eyes will likely return to their normal state.