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Jaundice causes

Jaundice is a yellow color in the skin, mucus membranes, or eyes. The yellow color comes from bilirubin, a byproduct of old red blood cells. Jaundice is a sign of other diseases.

This article discusses the possible causes of jaundice in children and adults. Newborn jaundice occurs in very young infants.


Jaundice is often a sign of a problem with the liver, gallbladder, or pancreas. Jaundice can occur when too much bilirubin builds up in the body. This may happen when:

  • There are too many red blood cells dying or breaking down and going to the liver.
  • The liver is overloaded or damaged.
  • The bilirubin from the liver is unable to properly move into the digestive tract.

Conditions that can cause jaundice include:

  • Infections of the liver from a virus (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E) or a parasite
  • Use of certain drugs (such as an overdose of acetaminophen) or exposure to poisons
  • Birth defects or disorders present since birth that makes it hard for the body to breakdown bilirubin (such as Gilbert syndrome, Dubin-Johnson syndrome, Rotor syndrome, or Crigler-Najjar syndrome)
  • Liver damage
  • Gallstones or gallbladder disorders
  • Blood disorders
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Bile build-up in the gallbladder because of pressure in the belly area during pregnancy (jaundice of pregnancy)

Alternative Names

Causes of jaundice


Lidofsky SD. Jaundice. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 20.

Update Date 8/26/2013

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