Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
What problems and symptoms does jaundice cause?
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Jaundice or cholestasis, by themselves, causes few problems (except in the newborn, and jaundice in the newborn is different than most other types of jaundice, as discussed later.) Jaundice can turn the skin and whites of the eyes yellow. In addition, stool can become light in color, even clay-colored because of the absence of bilirubin that normally gives stool its brown color. The urine may turn dark or brownish in color. This occurs when the bilirubin that is building up in the blood begins to be excreted from the body in the urine. Just as in feces, the bilirubin turns the urine brown.
Besides the cosmetic issue of looking yellow and having dark urine and light stools, the symptom that is associated most frequently with jaundice or cholestasis is itching, medically known as pruritus. The itching associated with jaundice and cholestasis can sometimes be so severe that it causes patients to scratch their skin "raw," have trouble sleeping, and, rarely, even commit suicide.
It is the disease causing the jaundice rather than the jaundice itself that causes most problems associated with jaundice. Specifically, if the jaundice is due to liver disease, the patient may have symptoms or signs of liver disease or cirrhosis (cirrhosis represents advanced liver disease). The symptoms and signs of liver disease and cirrhosis include fatigue, swelling of the ankles, muscle wasting, ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity), mental confusion, coma, and bleeding into the intestines.
If the jaundice is caused by blockage of the bile ducts, no bile enters the intestine. Bile is necessary for digesting fat in the intestine and releasing vitamins from within it so that the vitamins can be absorbed into the body. Therefore, blockage of the flow of bile can lead to deficiencies of certain vitamins. For example, there may be a deficiency of vitamin K that prevents proteins that are needed for normal clotting of blood to be made by the liver, and, as a result, uncontrolled bleeding may occur.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/23/2012
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