Jaundice is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying disease. It is noticeable by the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Other symptoms include dark-coloured urine and occasionally generalized itching. The yellowing discolouration is caused when Bilirubin, a substance that is involved in breaking down red blood cells, accumulates in the bloodstream. Bilirubin and bile in a normal healthy body mix and pass safely out of the body via the digestive tract. If the liver is not working correctly or if the passage of bile is blocked (perhaps by gallstones), bilirubin begins to accumulate into the blood. Jaundice can signify a more serious problem.
Jaundice is quite common in newborns, this is because the liver now has to function on its own and in the beginning it may take a little time to work properly. In rare cases, excessive amounts of bilirubin have been known to damage the child’s brain. Even though jaundice is normally harmless in these cases, you should still consult your doctor. If jaundice happens to be a result of a disorder, it can be much more serious, such as the liver malfunctioning (cirrhosis). Other conditions or factors that sometimes disrupt the functioning of the liver and lead to jaundice, include pregnancy, hepatitis, congestive heart failure and certain drugs and toxins. Gallstones have also been known to cause jaundice. If it occurs in school-age children or adults, the doctor might take a blood sample, so that he can check for liver damage.
When to seek further professional advice
As soon as you notice your baby suffering from jaundice or if you notice it in yourself, a school-age child or another adult.
Before any treatment can be given, the underlying cause must be known. Chinese herbalists often treat jaundice with various combinations of herbs, these remedies must be prepared by a trained professional. Herbal therapies are often used as well. Various herbs, including vervain (Verbena officinalis), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and milk thistle (Silybum marianum) are often used to treat this disorder. There are a number of homeopathic remedies which are suitable for treating jaundice. A qualified homeopath should be consulted, he will want to know what the underlying cause is, and then he will prepare the correct dosage for you.
The best way to treat this disorder is to find out the cause, your doctor will be able to indicate what is going wrong with your liver after examining you. If your baby is suffering from jaundice as a result of an illness he will have to be hospitalized and treated accordingly. The treatment for illness-related jaundice in older children and adults depends on the cause.
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