Gastrointestinal Disorders 2022

Yellow eyes: 9 main causes (and what to do)

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Yellow eyes: 9 main causes (and what to do)
Yellow eyes: 9 main causes (and what to do)

Yellow eyes usually appear when there is an excessive accumulation of bilirubin in the blood, a yellow substance that is produced by the liver from the destruction of red blood cells, and which is stored in the gallbladder to be eliminated in the stool or urine. When there is a problem with the liver, gallbladder or pancreas, such as cirrhosis, gallstones or pancreatitis, for example, bilirubin is not eliminated from the body, accumulating in the blood and causing yellow eyes.

However, yellow eyes are also very common in newborns, known as neonatal jaundice, but in these cases, it usually happens because the liver is not yet fully developed and is not a sign of a serious problem.

Anyway, it is always important to consult the general practitioner when yellow eyes appear, to carry out exams and identify if there is any change in the liver, or in the organs of the digestive system, to start the most appropriate treatment that will depend on the cause.

1. Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by the hepatitis A, B or C virus, but can also occur due to the use of medication. This inflammation changes the functioning of the liver, making it difficult to transport bilirubin to the bile ducts, which is then eliminated into the bloodstream, leading to the appearance of yellow skin and eyes, in addition to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, for example.

What to do: It is important to consult a general practitioner or hepatologist, who should order blood tests to assess the amount of bilirubin in the blood and identify the type of virus to start the most appropriate treatment, which may include rest or the use of drugs such as interferon, adefovir or entecavir, for example.Learn more about treating hepatitis.

2. Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis can cause yellow eyes and dark urine, in addition to other symptoms such as whitish stools, swelling in the legs, nausea or vomiting, especially when it is in the most advanced stage.

This disease occurs when alcohol, fatty liver or hepatitis cause permanent destruction of liver cells, causing these cells to be replaced by fibrous tissue, as if it were a scar, making it difficult for the liver to work.

What to do: you should consult the hepatologist to start the treatment that varies according to what caused the cirrhosis, and can be done with the suspension of the use of drinks alcohol, a low-fat diet, or use of diuretic medications to reduce swelling in the body. In the most severe stages, the doctor may recommend a liver transplant. Learn more about treating cirrhosis.

3. Hemolytic anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a type of autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies that attack and destroy red blood cells. When this happens, bilirubin is released into the bloodstream causing yellow eyes, as well as excessive tiredness, a swollen belly or chest pain, for example.

What to do: you should consult a general practitioner or hematologist to start treatment, which can be done with the use of corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs. In more severe cases, surgery may be required to remove part of the spleen. Learn more about treating hemolytic anemia.

4. Gallbladder stone

Gallbladder stone occurs when a small stone blocks the ducts of the gallbladder, preventing bilirubin from leaving the intestine, which is then released into the blood, causing yellow eyes. In addition, gallstones can also cause symptoms such as severe pain on the right side of the belly, especially after meals, constant diarrhea, fever, nausea or vomiting.

What to do: you should look for a general practitioner or gastroenterologist who should request a blood test and imaging tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, scintigraphy or computed tomography, to check the size and quantity of gallstones. Usually, when the stone is small, treatment may include the use of Ursodiol medicine to help break up the stone. However, in cases where the stone is large and the person has a fever and severe abdominal pain, the doctor may recommend surgery to remove the gallbladder. Learn how gallbladder surgery is performed.

5. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which can cause yellow eyes, severe pain on the left side of the belly that can radiate to the back, and other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or fever.

What to do: you should consult the general practitioner or gastroenterologist to be admitted to the hospital and start the most appropriate treatment that can be done with the administration of saline in the vein and analgesic drugs to control the pain.In more severe cases, the doctor may suggest surgery. In addition, it is important to make dietary changes by avoiding fatty foods, and taking pancreatic enzyme supplements as recommended by your doctor. Learn more about treating pancreatitis.

6. Neonatal jaundice

Neonatal jaundice is a very common alteration in newborns, especially in premature infants, which is characterized by excess bilirubin in the bloodstream, causing yellow eyes and skin. This condition occurs because the baby's liver is not fully mature at birth, making it difficult to eliminate bilirubin.

What to do: you should consult your pediatrician for an assessment of the baby's he alth and to indicate the best treatment. Neonatal jaundice does not always require treatment, it is only indicated that the baby is breastfed or bottle fed every 2 hours to facilitate the elimination of intestinal waste.However, if the jaundice gets worse or if the baby has very yellow eyes and skin, phototherapy can be done, in which the baby must remain in an incubator with direct light on it all the time, being removed only to be fed, to diaper changes and bath time. Learn more about treating neonatal jaundice.

7. Malaria

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by the Anopheles mosquito infected by the protozoan of the genus Plasmodium that multiplies in the liver and then reaches the bloodstream, where it invades and breaks up red blood cells. Due to the destruction of red blood cells, bilirubin is released into the bloodstream, which causes symptoms such as yellow eyes and headache, in addition to fever, sweating, chills, nausea, vomiting or weakness, for example.

What to do: you should consult your general practitioner to start malaria treatment, which must be done with the use of antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine, primaquine or mefloquine, for example. Learn more about treating malaria.

8. Pinguecula

Pingu├ęcula is degeneration of the eye's conjunctiva that occurs by a growth of tissue consisting of proteins, fat and calcium, with yellow color, causing yellow eye and other symptoms such as dry and irritated eye sensation, swelling, redness, blurred vision and itchy eye.

What to do: you should consult the ophthalmologist to confirm the diagnosis and start the appropriate treatment, which can be done with the use of eye drops and ointments. In some cases, surgery may also be recommended.

9. Liver cancer

Liver cancer is a type of malignant tumor that, when it is in an early stage, may not show symptoms, but as the disease progresses, symptoms such as yellow skin and eyes, pain in the abdomen, weight loss or belly swelling, for example.

What to do: It is important to consult an oncologist or hepatologist whenever cancer or other serious liver problems are suspected, to identify the cause and initiate treatment.In the case of cancer, the doctor may recommend surgery, chemotherapy or liver transplantation. See all treatment options for liver cancer.

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