Skin | Dermatology | Jaundice (Symptom)


Jaundice can turn the skin and whites of the eyes yellow. In addition, stool can become light in colour, even clay-coloured because of the absence of bilirubin that normally gives stool its brown colour. The urine may turn dark or brownish in color. This occurs when the bilirubin that is building up in the blood begins to be excreted from the body in the urine. Just as in feces, the bilirubin turns the urine brown.


Besides the cosmetic issue of looking yellow and having dark urine and light stools, the symptom that is associated most frequently with jaundice or cholestasis is itching, medically known as pruritus. The itching associated with jaundice and cholestasis can sometimes be so severe that it causes patients to scratch their skin raw, have trouble sleeping, and, rarely, even commit suicide.

If the jaundice is due to liver disease, the patient may have symptoms or signs of liver disease or cirrhosis (cirrhosis represents advanced liver disease). The symptoms and signs of liver disease and cirrhosis include fatigue, swelling of the ankles, muscle wasting, ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity), mental confusion, coma, and bleeding into the intestines.

If the jaundice is caused by blockage of the bile ducts, no bile enters the intestine. Bile is necessary for digesting fat in the intestine and releasing vitamins from within it so that the vitamins can be absorbed into the body. Therefore, blockage of the flow of bile can lead to deficiencies of certain vitamins. For example, there may be a deficiency of vitamin K that prevents proteins that are needed for normal clotting of blood to be made by the liver, and, as a result, uncontrolled bleeding may occur.


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