Why Jaundice Happens In Adults & What Are Its Causes?

If you have Jaundice then you are most likely to have your skin and the white part of your eyes turns to yellow. The condition is most common in newborn babies but people of all ages including adults get it, too. Jaundice is caused by build-up of bilirubin – a yellow pigment – in the blood and the tissues of the body. This build-up of bilirubin is often due to certain other conditions that affect your liver, gallbladder, pancreas or blood, such as hepatitis, gallstones or cirrhosis. If you are experiencing the symptoms of Jaundice then the doctor devises treatment plan for the underlying condition that is causing it instead of the Jaundice itself.

Let’s find out what exactly causing Jaundice in adults, its diagnosis and treatment:


Old red blood cells travel to the liver, where they naturally breakdown. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is produced as a waste by-product through the process of breakdown of these old red blood cells. When red blood cells die, the liver filters them out of the body through urine or stool. But when your liver can’t perform this function properly in the way it’s supposed to due to any reason then bilirubin starts build up in the blood and body tissues, causing your skin and whites of eyes to look yellow.

The liver can’t be able to perform its function properly due to certain reasons, some of these important causes of Jaundice include:


Most of the time, Hepatitis is caused by a virus or drugs or any auto immune disorder. It may be acute (short lived) or chronic (lasts for long time period i.e. at least six months). With the passage of time, this condition can damage the liver, which leads to Jaundice.


Consuming too much alcohol over a long period of time such as for about 8-10 years, could greatly damage your liver. This damage results in two most common diseases, which are alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis, which can harm your liver and cause Jaundice.


Bile ducts are small thin tubes that carry fluid, called bile from liver and gallbladder to the small intestine for digestion. When these bile ducts get blocked due to gallstones, cancer or other liver disease then they could hinder the normal functioning of the liver and can cause Jaundice.


This is most common cancer among men and women. Pancreatic cancer can block the bile ducts which lead to Jaundice.


The overdose or adverse reaction of certain drugs such as penicillin, acetaminophen, steroids and birth control pills has been linked to liver disease, which ultimately can cause you Jaundice.



At first, the doctor conducts blood tests to check the cause of Jaundice. The doctor gives you bilirubin test that measures the amount of substance in your blood and if bilirubin level is high then you have Jaundice. The doctor also gives you complete blood count (CBC) test that will help in determining the indicators of other diseases as well, such as Hepatitis, etc.

The doctor then asks you about your symptoms and reviews your complete medical history. Then, further he/she performs physical test and orders more diagnostic tests to check your liver, which include:

  1. Liver function tests: It is a series of blood tests that is used to measure the level of certain proteins and enzymes that liver produces when it is healthy and when it is damaged.
  2. Imaging studies: It includes abdominal ultrasounds (in which high frequency sound waves are used to generate the images of internal organs of the body) or CT scans.
  3. Liver biopsies: During this exam, small samples of liver tissues are taken for testing and microscopic examination.


As we have mentioned earlier that Jaundice itself isn’t a disease but it is the symptom of certain serious illnesses or conditions, so the type of treatment depends on the specific cause of the Jaundice. The doctor treats the cause of the Jaundice and not the symptom itself. Once, the treatment of the underlying cause started, your yellow skin begins to return to its normal condition.



Usually Jaundice clears up when the underlying condition is treated. You need to consult a physician right away because Jaundice may be a sign of some serious illness. So, early detection of the underlying cause will paves the way for timely treatment.

You can consult board certified physician at GI Endoscopy Practice in NJ, who has been treating patients for Jaundice and related specific conditions that cause it. He has 15 years of experience in the treatment of various GI tract diseases and problems. He and his committed team tailor a proper treatment plan according to the results of your diagnostic tests and underlying cause, so that you can ultimately live a healthy life.

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