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Jaundice, neonatal

Yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes in newborn babies, caused by accumulation of the brown-yellow bile pigment bilirubin within the blood. Neonatal jaundice often results from the liver being too young to excrete bilirubin sufficiently. The condition, which seems to be more predominant in breast-fed babies, is generally harmless and is gone within a week.

In unusual cases, severe or consistent neonatal jaundice can be brought on by the blood disorder ‘haemolytic disease of the newborn’; the genetic condition G6PD deficiency hepatitis (inflammation of the liver); hypothyroidism (underativity of the thyroid); biliary atresia (abnormal formation or lack of bile ducts); or infection, such as a urinary tract infection.

Jaundiced newborns often require more fluids and can be treated with photo therapy (light therapy) or, in extreme cases; exchange transfusion (type of blood transfusion) if extreme neonatal jaundice is not treated straight away, kernicterus (a type of brain damage) can arise.

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