Jaundice is a yellowy tinge to the skin and the whites of the eyes. It is caused by a build-up of the chemical bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is made when red-blood cells are broken down. The body is usually able to get rid of it easily unless there is something wrong with your liver or biliary system (this releases bile to help with digestion).
There are three types of jaundice in adults and older children: haemolytic jaundice, hepatocellular jaundice and obstructive jaundice. Hepatocellular jaundice is the most common. It is usually caused by a problem with the liver.
Western Medicine View
Treatment of jaundice in adults and older children depends on what is causing it. Your doctor will carry out a number of tests to find out what is causing it. You will then be able to have the appropriate treatment.
If it is caused by anaemia you might have to start taking iron tablets. If it is caused by hepatitis you might need to start taking tablets, but not all types of hepatitis can be treated. If it is caused by taking particular drugs, your doctor might prescribe an alternative. If it is caused by an obstruction such as a gallstone or a tumour, you may need to have surgery.
If the liver is severely damaged, then the damage cannot be reversed. If you stop drinking alcohol this will increase your chances of survival. You may be considered for a liver transplant if the damage is very severe.
Chinese Medicine View
Jaundice results from the dampness in the spleen and heat in the stomach, leading to abnormal circulation of the bile which spreads to the skin surface. It is divided into two types, Yang type and Yin type.
Yang type is characterized by yellow skin and eyeballs, fever, thirst, scanty dark yellow urine, heaviness of the body, fullness in the abdomen, stuffiness of the chest, nausea, yellow, sticky tongue coating and fast pulse.
Yin jaundice includes symptoms of sallow skin, heaviness of the body, weakness, loss of appetite, epigastric stuffiness, lassitude, aversion to cold, absence of thirst, pale tongue, thick white tongue coating and a slow pulse.
According to Chinese medical theory acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be prescribed to treat jaundice. Acupuncture is used to remove heat and dampness in the Yang type, while acupuncture combined with moxibustion (which involves igniting a cone or cylinder of moxa close to the skin) is used to take away dampness in Yin type.
For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation.
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