Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Board-Certified Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition located throughout Illinois
Jaundice is a medical condition primarily found in newborn babies. In fact, around 60% of full-term babies and 80% of preterm babies develop jaundice during their first week of life, and approximately 10% of breastfed babies remain jaundiced after one month. If left untreated, jaundice could lead to brain damage. If your child’s eyes and skin look yellow, call or make an appointment online today at The Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition throughout Illinois.
Jaundice Q & A
What is jaundice?
When red blood cells break down, your baby’s body produces bilirubin. Typically, the bilirubin passes through your child’s liver and gets released into the baby’s intestines to help with digestion as bile.
Jaundice results when your baby’s liver can’t break down the bilirubin fast enough, and it builds up in his or her body.
There are several types of jaundice, including:
Physiological (normal) jaundice
Because the liver of newborns is still maturing, most newborns appear to have this mild jaundice two to four days after birth. It disappears after a week or two.
Jaundice of prematurity
To avoid complications, premature babies get treated for jaundice regardless of their bilirubin levels because premature babies are even less ready to process it.
If you have difficulty breastfeeding, your baby doesn’t get the nutrients needed and develops jaundice.
Breast milk jaundice
Sometimes, breastfed babies develop jaundice due to substances in breast milk that make bilirubin levels rise and prevent its excretion through the intestines.
Blood group incompatibility
If you and your baby have different blood types, your body might produce antibodies that destroy your child’s red blood cells creating a sudden buildup of bilirubin in your infant's blood.
How is jaundice diagnosed?
The doctors at The Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition diagnose your child with jaundice through a physical exam. During this exam, the doctor takes a sample of your baby's blood. Additionally, the doctor does a skin test using a device that measures the reflection of a special light shone through the baby’s skin. To rule out any underlying disorders of jaundice, your baby’s doctor orders additional blood tests or urine tests.
How is jaundice treated?
Most cases of jaundice only require monitoring and as they resolve on their own within a week or two. The doctors at The Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition recommend increasing feedings until your baby passes the excess bilirubin. More severe cases require additional treatment that includes:
- Phototherapy: treatment with a special light
- Intravenous immunoglobulin: intravenous transfusion of a blood protein that reduces antibody levels
- Exchange transfusion: baby’s blood gets removed, diluted of bilirubin and material antibodies, and transferred back into the baby
If you are concerned about your newborn’s jaundice, call or make an appointment online today at The Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition in the Southern and Western Chicago suburbs.