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Jaundice

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Updated: 1/14/2003 11:29 am
'Jaundice' (JAWN-diss) is a yellow-orange discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes caused by the buildup of a substance called 'bilirubin' (bil-ih-ROO-bun). Bilirubin is a pigment derived from hemoglobin (HEE-muh-globe-un), which is the oxygen-carrying protein of red blood cells. Red cells last about four months; then they're destroyed by the spleen and removed from the blood by the liver. Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of the red cells. In a newborn, sometimes a backlog of bilirubin develops, causing the baby's skin to take on a yellow-orange hue (HYEW). The yellow usually will fade as the baby's liver matures. In some cases, too much bilirubin can cause brain damage or anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh), especially in premature babies, so if you notice these symptoms, call a doctor. Jaundice can be treated in different ways. Increase the baby's fluid intake. If the baby's had an infection, that may be an underlying cause, so treating the infection may cure the jaundice. Another treatment is 'phototherapy,' doctor-supervised ultraviolet light treatment.

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