Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes caused by the accumulation of a yellow pigment called bilirubin in the blood. It occurs in approximately 60 percent of newborn babies and makes your skin becomes yellow, usually a few days after birth. In most cases the jaundice disappears without treatment and does not harm the baby or cause any discomfort. However, babies with severe jaundice may have high levels of bilirubin, which can entail a risk of brain damage.
What are the causes of jaundice in newborns?
Jaundice occurs because the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood. Every day dies a certain amount of red cells in the body. When they decompose, oxygen-carrying substance called hemoglobin into bilirubin.
If baby’s skin has a yellow or if the baby has certain risk factors that make it more likely to develop jaundice , the practitioner can measure the level of bilirubin by skin test or analysis blood. The blood is the most accurate way to determine the bilirubin level. Doctors also recommend one of these tests make some babies with darker skin because it can be difficult to determine if they have jaundice through an examination of the skin.
Normally, the liver removes bilirubin from the blood and turns it into a form capable of being expelled from the body to defecate. In newborns, it can die a red blood cell count greater than in the other stages, resulting in a greater amount of bilirubin. It is possible that the newborn’s liver is too immature to manage well the elimination of bilirubin, so it accumulates in the blood. This buildup causes the skin and sometimes the whites of the eyes to become yellow. Premature babies are particularly immature livers, which makes them prone to jaundice.
Jaundice caused by a liver that has not finished yet mature is called physiological jaundice. This is the most common type of jaundice in newborns and usually occurs between and among breastfed infants fed formula. In general, physiologic jaundice disappears within two weeks in formula-fed infants, although it can last more than two to three weeks in babies amamantados.
What are the symptoms of jaundice?
Generally, the yellowing first appears on the face and then the whites of the eyes. Parents can determine if your baby has jaundice watching the daylight or in a room with fluorescent lights. If parents believe that baby’s skin has a yellowish color, should contact your pediatrician.
Most babies with jaundice are alert and eating and sleeping normally. However, parents should call the doctor immediately or seek emergency medical attention if your baby with jaundice:
* It looks very yellow
* It is difficult to wake
* Shows a lack of interest in sucking or feeding
* You have signs of weakness or stiffness (or alternating between both)
* Arch your neck or back to back
* Develop a high-pitched crying or fever
* Have unusual eye movements
These may be early warnings that the baby has a dangerously high bilirubin level that requires immediate treatment to prevent a form of brain damage called kernicterus.
What is kernicterus?
Kernicterus is a type of brain damage caused by elevated bilirubin. It can cause cerebral palsy athetoid (characterized by uncontrollable tremors or twitching of the limbs, body and face), hearing loss, eye problems and sometimes mental retardation.
How is jaundice?
Most babies with jaundice requires no treatment. Sometimes, doctors advise parents that some measures can be implemented at home to help eliminate mild to moderate jaundice, for example, feed the baby more often, which will help evacuate more often and and eliminate bilirubin.
If a baby has moderate to severe jaundice that does not disappear by itself, it is advisable to make a treatment:
* Phototherapy. This treatment involves placing the baby in a small diaper under white or blue light special called “bili-lights”. The baby has special glasses to protect eyes. These lights help transform the bilirubin in the blood in a form that can be easily eliminated in urine. Some infants receive phototherapy before being discharged from the newborn nursery or are left for several days in hospital for treatment, while others receive in their homes. The child’s doctor may consider treatment with parents what is best for the baby. Phototherapy is safe. A few babies develop a mild rash that disappears after treatment ends. They can also use special fiber blankets to treat some infants.
* Transfusion alternatives. Babies who do not respond to phototherapy and continue to have dangerously high bilirubin levels or increase may require treatment with a type of special blood transfusion. This procedure involves gradually removing the baby’s blood with high levels of bilirubin, replacing it with donor blood. Replacement transfusion is effective in reducing bilirubin levels. However, it may present a risk of HIV infection and other complications, so it is recommended only when bilirubin levels are very high. Is performed in a neonatal intensive care ward.