Infant jaundice is an illness in babies in which the skin and the white part of the eye appear yellow. The yellowish color is due to the amount of bilirubin present in the blood. The high the level the more yellowish the skin will be. When the liver is underdeveloped, it does not function properly and produce an excess amount of bilirubin and causes jaundice. Infant jaundice is more frequently seen in newborn babies in the first 1-2 weeks of life. It may lead to brain damage, organ failure, and even death if left untreated.
Causes of infant jaundice
Infant jaundice is most often caused by
1. Excess of bilirubin
2. Lack of red blood cells
3. Underdeveloped liver
Some cases of infant jaundice occur due to these underlying disorders.Some of them are-
1. Liver disease.
2. Sepsis - a blood infection.
3. An abnormality of the baby's red blood cells.
4. Blocked bile duct or bowel.
5. Rhesus incompatibility - when baby’s blood type differs from her mother.
6. Enzyme deficiency.
7. Bacterial or viral infections.
8. Hypothyroidism - underactive thyroid gland.
9. Hepatitis - an inflammation of the liver.
Risk factors for infant jaundice
Risk factors that increase the chances of developing jaundice in infants
Common risk factors for infant jaundice are:
1. Premature birth
2. Breastfeeding - Babies who do not get enough nutrients or calories from breast milk or become dehydrated are more prone to develop jaundice.
3. Rhesus incompatibility
4. Bruising during birth
Symptoms of infant jaundice
The most common sign of infant jaundice is yellow skin.
Symptoms of infant jaundice include:
1. Yellow skin and the white part of the eyes
3. Itchy skin
4. Greenish-yellow stools
5. Poor feeding
6. Dark urine
Symptoms of severe infant jaundice include:
1. Yellow abdomen or limbs
3. Yellow sclerae (whites of the eyes)
4. Inability to gain weight
5. Poor feeding
6. Jaundice that lasts over three weeks.
How is infant jaundice diagnosed?
For diagnosing jaundice, you can talk to your doctor or you can check by yourself. To perform a test, you press your figure on baby’s skin and see the changes in skin color. The pressed area becomes slightly lighter than the normal skin color. This test should be performed under natural daylight.
If the infant's jaundice remains for more than two weeks doctors may execute further blood tests and urine tests to check for the disorders.
Treatments for infant jaundice
Normally in mild jaundice, treatment is not mandatory and it disappears it on its own within two weeks.
Some treatment options for severe jaundice include:
1. Phototherapy (light therapy)
2. Exchange blood transfusion
3. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg)
Complications that could occur from infant jaundice
3. High-pitched crying
4. Poor feeding
5. Permanent brain damage.
Prevention of infant jaundice
The best way of reducing chances of an infant developing jaundice is to make sure they are well fed.
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