jaundice (jônˈdĭs, jänˈ–) [key], abnormal condition in which the body fluids and tissues, particularly the skin and eyes, take on a yellowish color as a result of an excess of bilirubin. During the normal breakdown of old erythrocytes (red blood cells), their hemoglobin is converted into bilirubin. Normally the bilirubin is removed from the bloodstream by the liver and eliminated from the body in the bile, which passes from the liver into the intestines. There are several conditions that may interrupt the elimination of bilirubin from the blood and cause jaundice. Hemolytic jaundice is caused by excessive disintegration of erythrocytes; it occurs in hemolytic and other types of anemia and in some infectious diseases like malaria. Another type of jaundice results from obstruction in or about the liver; usually a stone or stricture of the bile duct blocks the passage of bile from the liver into the intestines. A third type of jaundice occurs when the liver cells are damaged by diseases such as hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver; the damaged liver is unable to remove bilirubin from the blood. Treatment of jaundice is directed to the underlying cause. Many instances of obstructive jaundice may require surgery.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.