CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
The main cause of jaundice is:
- Excess bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia). Bilirubin is the substance that causes the yellow color of jaundice. It's a normal part of the waste produced when "used" red blood cells are broken down. Normally, the liver filters bilirubin from the bloodstream and releases it into the intestinal tract. Before birth, a mother's liver removes bilirubin from the baby's blood. The liver of a newborn is immature and often can't remove bilirubin quickly enough, causing an excess of bilirubin. Jaundice due to these normal newborn conditions is called physiologic jaundice, and it typically appears on the second or third day of life.
A baby may have an underlying disorder that is causing jaundice. In these cases, jaundice often appears much earlier or much later than physiologic jaundice. Diseases or conditions that can cause jaundice include:
- Internal bleeding (hemorrhage)
- An infection in your baby's blood (sepsis)
- Other viral or bacterial infections
- An incompatibility between the mother's blood and the baby's blood
- A liver malfunction
- An enzyme deficiency
- An abnormality of your baby's red blood cells
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