Jaundice is the proper medical term for the yellowing of the eyes and skin. Jaundice is actually a symptom of an underlying problem rather than a condition itself, caused by a buildup of bilirubin in your body. Bilirubin is a substance that forms in the liver, as it breaks down old blood cells. In a healthy person, the liver also controls the destruction of bilirubin, maintaining an appropriate level. Because bilirubin is yellow, having too much of it in the body turns the skin and eyes a yellow color. There are a wide variety of conditions that can cause bilirubin, including many serious illnesses.
Bacteria or a virus can cause a liver infection, and it can be deadly if left untreated. Jaundice is one of the first visible signs of infection, so it is often critical to seek treatment right away if you notice a yellowing of your skin or eyes. Although most infections are treatable with antibiotics or antiviral medication, damage to the liver can be irreversible if not caught in time. Your physician may want you to stay in the hospital for observation during treatment, depending on your age and health status. Minor infections can often be treated at home instead.
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