Jaundice is yellowing of your eyes and skin. It is caused by too much bilirubin in your blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance found in red blood cells. It is released when the body breaks down old red blood cells. Bilirubin usually leaves the body through bowel movements. Jaundice happens because your body breaks down cells correctly, but it cannot remove the bilirubin.

What increases my risk for jaundice?

  • Liver, pancreas, or gallbladder conditions or diseases
  • A liver infection, such as hepatitis
  • Too much alcohol over a long period of time
  • Medicines such as acetaminophen that affect the liver
  • Pregnancy that causes bile to build up in the gallbladder
  • A genetic disorder that causes problems with bilirubin breakdown, such as Gilbert syndrome

How is jaundice diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how long you have had symptoms. He or she will ask what medicines you take and how much alcohol you drink. He or she will also ask if you recently had surgery, an injury, or a blood transfusion. Tell him or her if you or anyone in your family has a history of liver disease. Your healthcare provider will order blood and urine tests to measure your bilirubin levels. You may need other tests to find the cause of your jaundice.

How is jaundice treated?

Your healthcare provider will try to find and treat the cause of your jaundice. Medicine may be given to decrease bilirubin levels. Your provider may have you stop taking a medicine if it is causing your symptoms. You may need one or more procedures to find or remove a blockage in your pancreas or gallbladder.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Drink more liquids as directed. Liquids help you stay hydrated and urinate more. This helps prevent harm to your kidneys. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Eat foods low in fat. Healthy low-fat foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. These foods are easier to digest and may help reduce your symptoms.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol harms your liver and may make your symptoms worse.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe abdominal pain or a fever.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded or faint.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You begin to have tea-colored urine or pale, gray bowel movements.
  • Your skin and eyes become more yellow, or other symptoms get worse.
  • You are confused, or others notice changes in your behavior.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.