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Jaundice turns the skin and whites of the eyes yellow.

Jaundice is the yellowing of the scleral tissue in the eyes and the skin due to conditions such as a build up of bilirubin or a birth defect. Unlike what most people think, is not actually a true disease. Although anyone can get jaundice, newborn babies are the most likely to get jaundice. Up to 60% of all newborn babies within the first weeks of life will experience some state of jaundice. Jaundice, however, can also be found in adults. If not properly treated or not treated quick enough, Jaundice can be fatal. Jaundice can come in many different forms to many different people, in newborns, jaundice is normally more severe and requires immediate treatment. Adults with jaundice tend to experience less severe symptoms and only require treatment when it has gotten worse and requires a medical intervention.[1]

The liver and gallbladder is where the bilirubin starts to buildup due to a failure in the conversion process.
Red blood cells break down before they are fully matured which is a cause of jaundice

What Causes Jaundice?

Jaundice is the buildup of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a chemical in hemoglobin, which is the substance that carries oxygen tin red blood cells. As red blood cells break down they are processed by the liver. When red blood cells break down, they are turned into amino acids and conjugated bilirubin which is bilirubin that is not water sociable. This Bilirubin is then taken to the liver where it is then conjugated by an enzyme called uridine glucuronyl transferase which makes the bilirubin water soluble. The bilirubin is then taken to the gallbladder by bile ducts and is used for digesting food. If however, the liver cannot conjugate the bilirubin, the excess goes into the bloodstream which causes the yellow coloring on the skin and eyes. Another way that jaundice can be caused is if red blood cells break down before they are supposed to or if red blood cells are not normal. Both of these cases mean there is too much bilirubin coming into the liver than the liver can conjugate. Jaundice can also be caused by genetic mutations such as Gilbert's Syndrome or Crigler Najjar Syndrome, both of which are highly fatal. [2]

phototherapy treating Jaundice in newborns.

Jaundice Symptoms

The symptoms of jaundice include, but are not limited to: Severe abdominal pain and tenderness, Changes in mental function, such as drowsiness, agitation, or confusion, Blood in stool or tarry black stool, Blood in vomit, Fever, A tendency to bruise or to bleed easily. High levels of bilirubin in newborns can cause many defects such as a form of brain damage called kernicterus, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and spider-like blood vessels that are noticeable on the skin. Adults with jaundice experience a high level of itchiness throughout there body due to the high levels of bilirubin. [3]

Jaundice Treatments

The treatment of Jaundice depends on the specific cause. To diagnose you, the doctor will have to give you a bilirubin test, which measures the levels of bilirubin in your blood. The most effective treatment of this condition is light, or phototherapy. This type therapy uses specialty florescent lights to change the structural changes in the bilirubin molecule. The molecule absorbs the energy produced by the light to change the shape into one that is more soluble and can be excreted in the urine. This treatment is a simple, yet effective way to treat a sometimes fatal medical condition. Another simple treatment includes periodical Intravenous therapy. Because jaundice can lead to bacterial infections, antibiotics may be required to treat the patient. [4]


This video is a great source for in depth information about the causes and treatments of jaundice.


  1. Steven Doerr.Jaundice in Adults (Hyperbilirubinemia) MedicineNet last visited November 6, 2016.
  2. Jaundice Medlineplus. last updated October 12, 2016. unknown author.
  3. Herrine, Steven K. Jaundice in Adults Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. Last viewed November 6, 2016.
  4. Infant jaundice: Treatments and drugs Mayo Clinic. written April 3, 2014. unknown author.