[toc]Jaundice is a symptom of several diseases, which primarily affect the liver. In jaundice the sclera (white portion of the eyes) and the skin of a person becomes yellow and severely pale. This happens due to the excessive circulation of a liver pigment called as bilirubin. The colour will vary depending on the quantity of bilirubin present in the blood.
The liver has an important role to play in removing the toxic bilirubin from the blood. Jaundice occurs when the liver is unable to function optimally. This can happen in severe liver diseases like hepatitis, cancer of the liver, haemolytic anaemia, gallstones or inflammation of the bile ducts. Nevertheless, with the right treatment strategies, jaundice can be easily curbed and brought under control.
The treatment modality for jaundice is dependent on the severity of the liver disease. Here are the commonly adopted treatment approaches.
In cases of mild jaundice, that has occurred due to unknown reasons or choleostasis of pregnancy, a wait and watch approach works best. Lifestyle changes and a change in the diet can reverse the symptoms to a large extent. At times, the jaundice runs its course and disappears on its own.
Elimination of Drugs, Alcohol and Toxins
Liver cirrhosis caused by the excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to elevated bilirubin counts and an incidence of jaundice. Alcohol consumption can systematically destroy the liver. This calls for an aggressive approach in which the person is put on an alcohol de-addiction programme and rehabilitation.
This can go a long way in reducing or even reversing mild liver damage. Certain drugs like antibiotics can cause a severe gastric reaction and jaundice like symptoms. It is always best to discuss possible drug reactions with your doctor and do whatever it takes to eliminate the possibility of a drug reaction. Alternate substitutes to medicine can be chosen.
Treatment of Jaundice in Infants
New borns are frequently diagnosed with jaundice. Phototherapy is a common modality chosen for the treatment of infant jaundice. In this, the infant is exposed to a special yellow light at regular intervals. This helps to reduce the symptoms. Extreme cases of infant jaundice require treatment with the help of blood transfusions.
Surgery is a rare but an important aspect to consider in the treatment of jaundice. This is done when gall bladder stones are detected or in cases of liver cancer. In such cases, surgery and liver transplant may be recommended to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Self-Care at Home
Jaundice that typically occurs due to an infection or viral hepatitis can be easily treated with self-care at home. The reversal of the symptoms is prolonged but this is one of the best ways to treat jaundice. Here are some of the basic self-care tips to be followed.
Jaundice can lead to severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss and loss of appetite. In such cases, it is important to maintain adequate levels of hydration. Make sure your intake of fluids is optimal to reduce the severity of the side effects. Not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration. Stick to clear vegetable soups, water, fresh fruit juices and plenty of water.
Medication is best avoided with jaundice unless there is an underlying medical condition, which needs to be treated. If medication is required, make sure you take it only under a doctor’s prescription. Avoid taking herbs, supplements and other medications, which are not being monitored or supervised. These can prove to be dangerous.
Alcohol is a strict no-no in cases of severe jaundice. Alcohol can elevate bilirubin counts, exacerbate the patient’s discomfort and lead to overall ill health. Until the symptoms of jaundice abate, it is best to avoid alcohol completely. Resume having small quantities once you have received a clean bill of health from your doctor.
Avoid Greasy and Fatty Foods
One important function of the liver is the digestion of fats from the food we partake. In cases of severe liver damage or infection, this function is severely hampered. The liver cannot take the strain of fatty enzymes from the food. A diet that is completely devoid of fat is ideally recommended for patients with severe jaundice and elevated bilirubin counts.
Such a diet would include intake of boiled vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, soups, dry, unbuttered bread and bland rice if the patient can digest it. This diet is to be followed until the patient shows a cessation of jaundice like symptoms. A diet modification is one of the best ways to treat symptoms of jaundice.
Infants with jaundice are particularly vulnerable and need adequate nourishment despite their symptoms. The mother should continue to breastfeed her child as well as possible. This should be done in conjunction with phototherapy. Some infants respond well when placed against a well-lit window.
Very severe cases of jaundice require hospitalization. Supportive care and patient management is the need of the hour. Here are some of the treatments followed by hospital authorities.
The initial symptoms and episodes of jaundice can be quite severe and can cause acute nausea, vomiting and dehydration in the patient. Patients often require intravenous fluids for recovery. This may be continued until the patient shows some signs of recovery.
Certain anti-nausea medications may also be prescribed to patients who suffer from nausea and vomiting. This may be a necessity especially if the vomiting does not abate.
Liver cancer is a serious medical condition and may lead to persistent, prolonged and chronic jaundice. In cases of liver cancer, surgery along with chemotherapy is the only option. Sometimes the entire liver may have to be removed to prevent metastatic liver cancer. In such cases, liver transplants from a well-matched donor may be the only viable option.
Once the jaundice has been treated and bilirubin counts have resumed normalcy, regular patient follow-ups may be required. The patient may be asked to continue on a bland, low fat diet and take it easy. Adequate rest is required for the liver to heal. The patient is also asked to not consume food and water from outside and to not indulge in rigorous exercise. Regular checkups are conducted annually.
These days it is mandatory for patients to be vaccinated against viral hepatitis A and viral hepatitis B as this is a serious water borne infection.