Jaundice is a yellow color to your skin and the whites of your eyes.
Bilirubin is a yellow substance your body makes when it breaks down old or damaged red blood cells. Your liver processes the bilirubin in order to remove it from your body. It removes the bilirubin by mixing it into bile, a digestive juice, and putting it into your intestines.
Jaundice can happen if something goes wrong in your liver or in the tubes that carry bile to the intestines. Bilirubin builds up in your body and makes you turn yellow.
If you have jaundice, see a doctor soon—jaundice can be a sign of a serious problem like liver damage
Hepatitis from a virus is a common cause of jaundice, particularly in young and healthy people
Some people with jaundice itch all over—medicine may help relieve the itching
Jaundice by itself doesn't cause serious symptoms, but it can be a sign of other problems. Jaundice in newborns is different and can cause serious problems for babies.
Jaundice can happen if:
Common causes of blocked bile ducts include gallstones and tumors.
In older people, jaundice is usually caused by blocked bile ducts, and the blockage is more likely to be cancer. Doctors suspect cancer when older people with jaundice also have:
See a doctor as soon as possible if you have jaundice and these warning signs:
In older people, the warning signs may be milder or harder to recognize.
People with no warning signs who think they may have jaundice should see a doctor within a few days.
Doctors may do tests such as:
With a liver biopsy, the doctor will put a needle in your right side to take out a sample of your liver to look at under a microscope. With laparoscopy, the doctor will make a small cut in your belly and put a thin viewing tube through the cut to look at your organs.