Skin that looks yellow (jaundice)

Jaundice occurs when levels of a yellow-brown pigment called bilirubin build up in the blood and skin. Bilirubin, which is produced by the breakdown of red blood cells, is normally eliminated by the liver in bile (a fluid that helps the body digest fats). Too much bilirubin can cause the skin and eyes to look yellow.

Bilirubin can build up because of rapid destruction of red blood cells, liver diseases (such as hepatitis), blockage of the bile ducts leading from the gallbladder to the small intestine, or other problems. Bilirubin can be measured in the blood. Your bilirubin level provides information about how well your liver is working.

Other symptoms of high bilirubin include:

  • Dark urine.
  • Light-colored or whitish stools.
  • Itching.

The skin, eyes, urine, and stools will usually return to their normal color as the jaundice gets better.

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