Why do babies get jaundice? According to Wikipedia, 60% of full term babies and 80% of premature babies are getting babies jaundice. It is a huge numbers in terms of possibilities and i am more stunning to learn that more than 100,000 late-preterm and term babies die each year due to jaundice globally.
I think it is important to share information about “Why do babies get jaundice?”, that is why this article is written with the purpose of sharing reliable sources of information in this platform. We do not wish to take it lightly as baby may encounter serious underlying condition which you may overlook. I am not a health professional, i am writing this article from the research of this disease as it interests me and i think it is good to share reliable information within this platform as a general knowledge.
First of all, we have to understand what jaundice is and what causes it. Appropriate treatment is given by the doctor based on type of jaundice.
What is Baby Jaundice?
In medical term, baby jaundice is also called neonatal jaundice. It is a yellow discoloration of the skin and also white part of the eyes.
Why do babies get jaundice?
The root cause of Jaundice is the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood, and bilirubin is the waste material that is produced when your red blood cells break down. Some amount of bilirubin production and deposition is a normal process. Still, when it exceeds greater than 20 percent of total bilirubin content that is 5.2mg/dl, it is termed as Jaundice (1) .As is responsibly of the liver to metabolize and eliminate this waste material from the body but when somehow liver fails to fulfil its duty, it can result in jaundice.(1)
There are numerous forms of Jaundice, it can be normal in babies, but it can be present in the most aggressive life-threatening form like Biliary Atresia (BA) and liver failure(1).
As Dr Aqul said. “Jaundice by itself is not a dangerous condition, however, it might be a sign that something else is going on in the liver,”
Similarly, there are various causes of Jaundice like if some trauma happens to the baby during the delivery, it can result in Jaundice, or it can be caused by Biliary Artesia and even by insufficient drinking of breast milk which typically results in poor elimination of bilirubin. Billiard Artesia is a condition in which the so-called duct system around the liver is congenitally absent, or these ducts can be tiny, resulting in failure to excrete bilirubin.
Other causes of Jaundice include(1):
· A mismatch between mother and baby blood, resulting in the excessive breakdown of bilirubin.
· Blood disorders like sickle cell anaemia leading to the sickle shape of red blood cells resulting in their breakdown.
· Enzymatic deficiency of Glucose 6 hydrogenase eventually consequences in the breakdown of red blood cells.
· Infections caused by virus-like cytomegalovirus, hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus or herpes virus.
· Endocrine diseases like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
· Genetic disorders like Gilbert syndrome and galactosemia.
These are more complicated conditions which only can be determined by the medical doctors. Causes of jaundice depends on when the jaundice happen (does it appear immediately in 24 hours or after a week) and how high is the bilirubin level. Some may need immediate attention as it may be serious underlying condition such as ones mentioned above.
Treatment of Jaundice is highly dependent on its cause. If Jaundice is found to be mild after diagnosis, it will naturally go away after 1 or 2 weeks, and you don’t need to worry! However, if it does not go away, then focus should be directed towards eliminating the root cause for Jaundice. For example, if it is breast milk aggravated Jaundice, then every effort should be made to breastfeed the baby, and if it is due to blood disorders, then blood transfusion is a viable option.
Novel techniques to combat Jaundice are phototherapy and administration of immunoglobins. Immunoglobins can be given intravenously, and they will directly attack antibodies that causes red blood cells to break down. In phototherapy, babies are exposed to light that will change the bilirubin to a form that will be efficiently excreted (3). For that purpose, light therapy blankets can be used. Surgery has been considered an option for disorders like Biliary Artesia(3).
Baby jaundice can be mild or severe depends on the baby’s bilirubin level, age and underlying conditions. Always follow doctor’s advise and do frequent baby check up after baby is born. Do not trust any traditional treatment unless it is advised by the health professional. Delay in treatment may cause more serious problem.
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1. Chee Y, Chung PH, Wong RM, Wong K. Jaundice in infants and children: causes, diagnosis, and management. Hong Kong Med J. 2018;24(3):285-92.
2. Wang JS, Tan N, Dhawan A. Significance of low or normal serum gamma-glutamyl transferase level in infants with idiopathic neonatal hepatitis. European Journal of Pediatrics. 2006;165(11):795-801.
3. Mitra DS, Rennie DJ. Neonatal Jaundice: aetiology, diagnosis and treatment. British Journal of Hospital Medicine. 2017;78(12):699-704.
4. Wikipedia related to neonatal jaundice
5. NCBI related to neonatal jaundice