Causes of Jaundice

When the red blood cells break down, bilirubin is produced. Accumulation or build-up of this bilirubin in the blood or tissues leads to ‘jaundice’ or ‘icterus’. This accumulation of bilirubin may lead to yellowing of the skin and the eyes. There are three types of jaundice and each type is caused due to different causes.

Pre-hepatic jaundice is caused when there is excess break-down of red blood cells due to an infection or a disease leading to the production and build-up of bilirubin. It is often caused by sickle cell anaemia, a genetic condition that causes abnormal development of red blood cells, thalassemia- a genetic condition similar to sickle cell anaemia and in some cases it may be even caused by malaria- an infection spread by mosquitoes.

Other type of jaundice is intra-hepatic jaundice and the causes include diseases of the liver such as autoimmune hepatitis, hepatitis A, B and C, alcoholic liver disease caused due to chronic alcohol intake, liver cancer. Causes may also include birth defects or genetic disorders such as Gilbert syndrome where the body finds it difficult to breakdown bilirubin.

Post-hepatic is usually caused when the bile duct system it damaged or obstructed. This leads to difficulty in the excretion of conjugated bilirubin and thus, it gets accumulated in the blood. The causes include inflammation of the bile duct, pancreatitis (acute or chronic), gallstones which may obstruct the bile duct, cancer of the bile duct or pancreas.

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