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Jaundice In Children – An Overview

Jaundice In Children – An Overview

Jaundice is a common liver-related condition that causes the skin as well as the eyes to turn yellow. While this disease is seen to affect adults, but also highly prevalent in newborns and children. The illness in children could be a sign of a more serious medical problem as seen over many years with cases that have come in. 

What causes Jaundice?

Jaundice is caused due to hyperbilirubinemia, which occurs after a substance known as bilirubin builds up tremendously in the bloodstream. The substance bilirubin is produced as a result of the typical breakdown of blood cells and passes through the liver as an orange-yellow coloured substance and further on is excreted from the body. Jaundice develops when this substance, bilirubin is found in abnormally high levels in the blood, thus changing the colour of the eyes and skin. The fact that this disease is a little unusual in children, it raises alarm bells, as an indication of health issues that needs treatment. 

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Jaundice in children

Jaundice, in many cases, is found in newborns. This is because the newborns might not have a fully developed liver, which is responsible for the breaking down and excreting bilirubin. This is the typical case for jaundice in newborns; however, in older children, the situation is different.

Children of older ages suffer from three types of jaundice – 

Obstructive Jaundice 

This is a result of a blockage in the bile duct, which is found between the liver and the pancreas, this causes unusual levels of bilirubin in the body, thus resulting in jaundice. 

Hepatocellular Jaundice 

In older children, this kind of jaundice appears and is a sign of a damaged liver, or in the possibility, the liver might be suffering from a disease. 

Hemolytic Jaundice 

This type develops due to the abnormality in the breakdown of red blood cells, which in turn leads to increased levels of bilirubin in the blood. 

Symptoms of jaundice in children

The most common symptoms of jaundice in children are the yellowing of the eye (whites) and their skin. On the other hand, Jaundice is also known to cause changes in the colours of the bodily fluids like pale stools or dark urine. 

The presence of jaundice in children is a severe sign of health problems, that might need immediate treatment, apart from the disease that is already present, for instance, hepatitis. 

Other symptoms of jaundice in children include – 

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain

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Causes of Jaundice in children

When doctors diagnose jaundice in any child, apart from obviously providing treatment for the same, also go in deep to find out what triggered the cause of this disease in them. Knowing the origin of jaundice in the child is crucial, to make sure the right treatment is provided for the child. The most common causes of jaundice in children are –

Hepatitis

From Hepatitis A to Hepatitis E, all are known to be the reason for causing jaundice in children. Apart from these, there is another one in autoimmune hepatitis that tends to cause the body's immunity system to attack healthy cells in the liver mistakenly. On the other hand, all these types of hepatitis tend to cause inflammation of the liver, and in the long run, could cause definite harm to overall liver function. 

Epstein-Barr Virus

A widespread virus, EPV is known to affect children as well as adults and is usually transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva. This is the case when the child is known to share a toothbrush or drinking glass with someone. The problem with EBV is that whoever has it does not experience any symptoms leading to its presence in the body. However, EPV is known to cause jaundice, fever and lymph nodes among other things to a person affected by it. 

Gallstones

These are tiny, deposits of bile that are hardened and act as a digestive fluid. These deposits are formed in the gallbladder, an organ which could be found below the liver. Research is yet to prove or explain the formation of gallstones in the body, but it could be due to an abundance of bile in the cholesterol of the child, or due to too much accumulation of bilirubin in the bile. Gallstones are formed when the gallbladder fails to empty itself properly. 

Cancer 

Pancreatic cancer or liver cancer are also known to cause jaundice. In children, however, there is a possibility, but a rare one for anyone to have cancer of these parts. 

Doctors always are of the opinion to conduct a thorough diagnosis of the child to understand the cause of their jaundice. These are determined after the doctor looks for signs of liver disease and using a blood test & analysis of the urine to understand the levels of bilirubin in the child's blood. 

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Treatment 

Jaundice in children could be divided into two parts; jaundice in newborns and older children. While the reason for jaundice in newborns is clear, doctors usually conduct phototherapy to solve this problem, where the newborn is exposed to a unique blue light that brings the bilirubin levels to a healthy state. 

The treatment for jaundice in older children depends on the cause. For instance, if doctors diagnose jaundice due to an acceleration in the destruction of red blood cells, then treatment options like blood transfusion, specific medications and even plasmapheresis, which separates plasma from blood cells are conducted. 

Blood transfusion is also an option for newborns to control their high levels of bilirubin. 

If the jaundice is caused because of hepatitis, doctors conduct treatments based on the hepatitis type that has caused jaundice. 

In the case of Jaundice due to EBV, doctors usually try and manage other symptoms of jaundice, like nausea and fever. EBV does not have an anti-viral cure for it until now. 

Jaundice is a severe disease, especially in children, and parents need to take note of the larger picture here. In many cases, parents tend to make bad choices which leads to a lack of quality to their child's health care needs. For instance, some doctors only tend to treat the resulting symptoms of jaundice and fail to reach the real depths of the problem, which could be any of the causes mentioned above. Timely and appropriate treatments are necessary for children who have jaundice, mainly to avoid any long-term, future problems. 

About The Hospital: 

Ankura is a chain of  Children’s Hospital in Hyderabad. Set up in the year 2011 in KPHB, near Hitech Railway Station, the Ankura Hospitals family has today spread its wings to Secunderabad, Khammam and Vijayawada.