Jaundice is the yellow discoloration of the skin and the white part of eyes. It is due to the presence of too much bilirubin in blood of the baby. Bilirubin is formed when the body breaks down old red blood cells and the liver usually process and removes bilirubin from the body. Jaundice occurs usually when the livers are not fully developed or functionally resulting into inefficient removal of bilirubin from the blood.
Common symptoms of jaundice are :-
- Yellow coloration of skin and white part of eye
- Poor feeding
- White stool
Reasons for neonatal jaundice maybe :-
- Infections present at birth, like rubella, syphilis etc
- Low oxygen level
- Diseases that affect liver or biliary tract, such as cystic fibrosis or hepatitis.
Babies born premature are more likely to develop neonatal jaundice than a full term baby.
Usually bilirubin tests are conducted on new born babies to rule out any complication. Depending on the bilirubin levels, treatments are given to the child.
Treatment is not needed most of the time.
When treatment is needed, the type will depend on:
- The baby's bilirubin level
- How fast the level has been rising
- Whether the baby was born early (babies born early are more likely to be treated at lower bilirubin levels)
- How old the baby is
A baby will need treatment if the bilirubin level is too high or is rising too quickly.
If bilirubin is too high, then special blue lights are used, to break down bilirubin in skin. This process is called phototherapy.
- The infant is placed under artificial light in a warm, enclosed bed to maintain a constant temperature.
- The baby will wear only a diaper and special eye shades to protect the eyes.
- Doctors recommend that breastfeeding be continued through phototherapy, if possible.
- Rarely, the baby may have an intravenous (IV) line to deliver fluids.
Newborn jaundice is not harmful most of the time. For most babies, jaundice will get better without treatment within 1 to 2 weeks.
For babies who need treatment, the treatment is very often effective.