14 Possible Causes of Yellow Skin and eyes

The yellow color of the skin and eyes varies depending on levels of bilirubin. There are several type of liver issues which can cause yellow colored skin and eye.

Updated: August 18, 2020

The yellow color of the skin and eyes varies depending on the levels of bilirubin.  There are several types of liver issues which can cause yellow-colored skin and eye. The possible causes include:

Alcoholic Hepatitis:

This is an inflammatory condition of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption over an extended period of time. If you have alcoholic hepatitis, you must stop drinking alcohol. Continued drinking can lead to cirrhosis (permanent scarring) of the liver or even liver failure. When alcohol gets processed in the liver, it produces highly toxic chemicals which cause injury to the liver cells. This injury then leads to inflammation, and alcoholic hepatitis resulting in yellow skin.

Cirrhosis:

When alcohol and chronic viral infections are present over a long period of time, the liver becomes injured and scarred. A scarred liver can not function properly resulting in cirrhosis.

Biliary Obstruction:

A biliary obstruction is a blockage of the bile ducts. The bile ducts carry bile from the liver and gallbladder through the pancreas to the duodenum, which is a part of the small intestine. Bile is a dark-green or yellowish-brown fluid secreted by the liver to digest fats. The gallbladder releases bile to help in digestion and fat absorption. Bile also helps the liver to filter waste products. Obstruction of any of these bile ducts is referred to as a biliary obstruction.  if the blockage remains untreated for a long time, it can lead to life-threatening diseases of the liver.

Drug-Induced Immune Hemolytic Anemia:

It occurs when a medication you are taking causes your body’s immune system to mistakenly attack its own red blood cells. Some drugs can cause your immune system to mistake your red blood cells and make antibodies to attack them. This can cause your immune system to break down red blood cells leading to anemia. Anemia occurs when you do not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues. 

Liver Cancer:

Liver cancer is cancer that occurs in the liver. The liver performs various critical functions to keep the body free of toxins and harmful substances. The liver is responsible for producing bile, which helps you digest fats, vitamins, and other nutrients. This vital organ also stores nutrients such as glucose, so that you remain nourished at times when you are not eating. It also breaks down medications and toxins. When cancer develops in the liver, it harms liver cells and interferes with the ability of the liver to function normally.

ABO Incompatibility Reaction:

An ABO incompatibility reaction can occur if you receive the wrong type of blood during a blood transfusion. It is a rare but serious and fatal response to incompatible blood by your immune system.

Jaundice in New Born:

Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes is a very common condition in newborns. Usually, bilirubin, a yellow pigment produced during the breakdown of red blood cells passes through the liver and is released to the intestinal tract.  In newborns, the liver is underdeveloped and may not be able to remove bilirubin from the blood. Excess bilirubin in the blood can settle in the skin causing the skin and eyes to appear yellow

Hepatitis:

This is an inflammatory condition of the liver and is commonly caused by a viral infection. But there are other possible causes of hepatitis. There are 5 different kind of hepatitis known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E which results in yellow skin and eye.

Gallstones:

The gallbladder is a small organ below the liver in the upper right abdomen. It is a pouch that stores bile, a green-yellow liquid that helps with digestion. When there is too much cholesterol in the bile, gallstones are produced. These are also known as yellow cholesterol stones.

G6PD Deficiency:

This is a genetic abnormality that results in an inadequate amount of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) in the blood. G6PD is a very important enzyme or protein, that regulates various biochemical reactions in the body. G6PD is also responsible for keeping red blood cells healthy so they can function properly. The red blood cells break down prematurely when there is a deficiency of G6PD. This early destruction of red blood cells is known as hemolysis and can lead to hemolytic anemia. If the liver can not replace the red blood cells which are destroyed, there will be reduced oxygen flow to the organs and tissues. This can cause fatigue, yellowing of the skin and eyes, and shortness of breath.

Sickle Cell Anemia:

Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell disease (SCD), is a genetic disease of the red blood cells (RBCs). Usually, RBCs are shaped like discs, which gives them the flexibility to travel through even the smallest blood vessels. But in this disease, the RBCs have an abnormal shape resembling a sickle. This shape makes them sticky and rigid and prone to getting trapped in small vessels, which blocks blood from reaching different parts of the body. This can cause pain and tissue damage resulting in yellow-colored skin and eyes.

Pancreatic Cancer:

This type of cancer occurs when abnormal cells begin to grow within the pancreas and form tumors. When cancer develops in the pancreas, it interferes with the ability of the pancreas to perform its normal function such as producing enzymes that the body needs to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins or producing glucagon and insulin hormones which are responsible for controlling glucose (sugar) metabolism.

Thalassemia:

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen.
The disorder results in excessive destruction of red blood cells, which leads to anemia. Anemia is a condition in which your body doesn’t have enough normal, healthy red blood cells.

Weil’s Disease:

This is a type of bacterial infection caused by Leptospira bacteria. The bacteria can infect liver, kidney, lungs, heart, and brain which can lead to organ failure and death.



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