Jaundice is when the skin gets a yellow discoloration as well as the white parts of the eyes (sclerae) and the gums, which is a symptom caused by elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood, known as "hyperbilirubinemia" .
Jaundice signifies an underlying disease process, specially liver diseases. So, as soon as one notices his body turning yellow, it means something is going wrong inside; at home one can examine if there is change in urine/stool color (may be darken/yellow-orange/pale) or can notice jaundice in a tissue keeping it under the tongue. Other symptoms may be itchy skin, fatigue, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, swelling of the legs and abdomen etc.
There may be several causes for jaundice. Pre-hepatic jaundice occurs with rapid increase in the breakdown and destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis), that results in an increased level of bilirubin in the blood which the liver fails to remove adequately. If one is suffering from diseases like malaria, thalassemia, sickle cell anaemia etc, they cause increased breakdown of red blood cells. In the case of Intra-hepatic jaundice, it occurs due to a damage to the liver with the liver's failure to metabolize and reject bilirubin properly. Causes may be infection, exposure to a harmful substances like drugs or other toxins, hepatitis (commonly viral- hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C or alcohol related), liver cancer etc. Post-hepatic jaundice (also called as obstructive jaundice) is caused when the normal system of draining out conjugated bilirubin in the form of bile from the liver into the intestines is disturbed/damaged. Causes may be gallbladder cancer, bile duct system pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis etc.
Physiologic jaundice in newborn babies is usually very normal and harmless which occurs between two and five days of the new baby's life. It happens due to the inability of the baby's immature liver to process bilirubin from the accelerated break down red blood cell. With time, the baby’s liver matures, the jaundice eventually goes away. Then there are other types of jaundice known as Breast milk jaundice, occurs towards the end of the first week of life in breastfed newborns due to a non-harmful substance in the breast milk of mother which disappears with time; Breastfeeding jaundice occurs when the newborn fails to have adequate breast milk due to poor feeding/insufficient milk production by the mother; Cephalohematoma jaundice is when the baby gets injured in head during the birthing process that may cause blood cloting under the scalp, resulting elevated levels of bilirubin; another jaundice occurs when there is incompatibility between the blood types of the mother and the baby. In all cases pediatrician should be consulted immediately; so that treatment can be started accordingly on time. Make sure the baby gets nursing care. Exposure to indirect sunlight is also medically recommended; so babies should be placed near a window for some time covered in a diaper. Important is to see that the baby takes in plenty of fluids, significantly breast milk. Mother’s milk helps to move the meconium from the baby's bowels, besides being the best for the baby’s nutrition.