Yellowing of the skin and the white part of the eyes is the most prominent sign of jaundice, The cause of this condition is too much bilirubin present in the blood. Bilirubin is normally produced after the break down of old red blood cells in the liver and then removed from the blood. However, when this doesn’t happen, the person has too much bilirubin and experience jaundice. Newborn babies are prone to this condition because their liver is not mature enough to process bilirubin and remove it from the bloodstream.
Symptoms of Jaundice in Newborns
Jaundice doesn’t cause any clinical symptoms, besides the yellowing of the eyes and the skin. Babies with jaundice usually look ill, don’t eat properly and might have some fever. Increase of bilirubin in the blood may cause yellowing of the head, arms, body and then the legs. Extremely high bilirubin level could cause yellowing of the palms of the hands and the area below the knees.
Newborns develop jaundice when bilirubin in the blood exceeds 5mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) of blood. Jaundice in babies must be treated because it can cause permanent damage to the brain (known as kernicterus). Suspecting your baby has jaundice, you could check that by pressing the finger on the baby’s skin. It should turn white if the baby is healthy, or stay yellow if the baby has jaundice.
What Can Cause Jaundice in Babies?
As we explained earlier, baby’s liver is not mature enough toremove bilirubin from the bloodstream and this is why many newborns have jaundice. This is known as physiologic jaundice and it disappears as the liver matures and the breakdown of red blood cells slows down.
Neonatal jaundice (jaundice in newborns) could also be caused with some incompatibility of blood types between the mother and the baby. In this situation, mom’s body produces antibodies and fight against blood cells of the baby, destroying red blood cells and increasing the amount of bilirubin in baby’s blood.
Hemolysis is condition characterized by break down of red blood cells and it could be the cause of jaundice in newborns as well. Excess red blood cells in the baby’s body, known as polycythemia, is yet another possible explanation of neonatal jaundice. Other conditions that might be associated with yellowing of the skin and eyes of the newborns include: cephalohematoma, swallowing of some blood during birth, mom’s diabetes, carotenemia and syndromes such as Lucey-Driscoll and Crigler-Najjar.