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[Fr. jaunisse, fr. jaune, yellow]
Yellow staining of body tissues and fluids, due to excessive levels of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Jaundice is not usually visible until the total bilirubin level rises above 3 mg/dL. It is a symptom of many illnesses, including those marked by any of the following: obstruction of the biliary tract by gallstones, inflammatory masses, or tumors (such as cholecystitis, pancreatic carcinoma); slowing of the release of bile from hepatic portals (such as cholestasis); alteration of bile metabolism at the cellular level (such as in genetic diseases such as Gilbert's disease); release of bilirubin because of liver cell injury by toxins or viruses (such as acetaminophen overdose; hepatitis B virus infection); release of bile pigments as a result of the destruction or ineffective manufacturing of red blood cells (such as hemolysis; hereditary spherocytosis); or resorption of bile from hematomas within the body, esp. after trauma.
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JAUNDICE Skin of the abdomen
jaundiced (jon′dĭst)
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, adj.
SYN: SEE: icterus

Deposits of bilirubin in the skin often cause itching. Other symptoms of jaundice depend on whether the bilirubin is direct (conjugated, i.e., soluble in body fluids, or indirect (unconjugated). Obstructive jaundice causes conjugated hyperbilirubinemia in which bile pigments are excreted in the urine but not in the intestinal tract. As a result urine turns bright green, but the stool appears gray or white.

Tests to determine the cause of jaundice include a carefully performed history and physical exam, urinalysis (positive for bilirubin only in conjugated hyperbilirubinemia), liver function tests, blood tests for hepatitis, and abdominal ultrasonography. Invasive diagnostic testing with cholangiography, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or percutaneous trans-hepatic cholangiography is performed when occult biliary obstruction is suspected.

The precise cause of jaundice must be determined in each patient to provide suitable therapies. For example, patients with gallstones obstructing the cystic duct need surgical treatment, and newborns with severe jaundice may require treatment with ultraviolet light to prevent kernicterus, but jaundiced patients with acute hepatitis A usually heal with symptomatic rather than specific remedies.

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