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Jaundice is a visible, clinical manifestation of excess blood levels (i.e., hyperbilirubinemia) of the bile pigment, bilirubin. It appears as a yellowish discoloration of the skin, mucous membranes, and sclerae[1]. Hyperbilirubinemia is most often the result of liver disease.

While the liver is almost always involved in jaundice, the actual disorder can be taking place before, in, or after the liver itself.[2]

Anemia is a deficiency in circulating red blood cells. Hemolytic anemia is a subtype where the red cells are created in adequate supply, but break down in circulation. Hemoglobin breakdown products will be converted to bilirubin.

Inside the liver, there may be disorders of bilirubin metabolism, bilirubin transport, or injury that releases bilirubin from liver cells.

Bilirubin is a major component of bile. As a consequence, obstructions to the flow of bile from the liver into the duodenum can produce jaundice.

Jaundice and stage of life

Of the many causes of jaundice, many are specific, or at least most likely, for newborns, children, adults, or the elderly.

Neonatal jaundice

Jaundice is the most common condition needing special attention in newborn infants. [3] In the past, it was not fully recognized that neonatal jaundice may be not be due to catastrophic disease and treatable with conservative methods; up to 60 percent of newborns may have jaundice in their first week [4]


  1. Whites of the eye
  2. Covin, RB (April 4, 2006), Liver and Gallbladder Pathology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
  3. Hansen, Thor WR (Oct 18, 2007), "Jaundice, Neonatal", eMedicine
  4. Dennis DENNIS, MAJ, MC, USA, Meridith L. (2002), "Hyperbilirubinemia in the Term Newborn", Am Fam Physician 65: 599-606,613-4