Neonatal Jaundice

What is neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal jaundice is a common medical condition found in newborns, characterized by yellow discolouration of the skin and eyes. It is caused by an excess of bilirubin, a substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. In most cases, it resolves itself without treatment; however, in some cases, medical intervention may be required. Symptoms include yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, and fatigue or lethargy. Early identification and treatment are important to ensure proper care for infants affected by neonatal jaundice.

What are the different types of neonatal jaundice?

There are three main types of neonatal jaundice: physiological, pathological, and breast milk jaundice. Physiological jaundice is the most common type and occurs due to the immaturity of a newborn's liver. Pathological jaundice is caused by an underlying medical condition such as an infection or metabolic disorder. Breast milk jaundice occurs when an excessive amount of bilirubin is produced due to the breakdown of antibodies in a mother's breast milk.

What causes neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal jaundice is caused by an accumulation of bilirubin in the baby's bloodstream, which is a yellow pigment produced when red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin can build up because newborns have immature livers that cannot process it quickly enough, or because they have an unusually high rate of red blood cell breakdown. It can also be caused by a deficiency of an enzyme involved in the metabolism of bilirubin or due to maternal-fetal incompatibility, where the mother's immune system produces antibodies that attack her baby's red blood cells. Phototherapy may be used to reduce bilirubin levels in severe cases.

What are the symptoms of neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal jaundice is marked by yellowing of the skin, a pale yellow-white colour in the whites of the eyes, and dark urine. Infants may also experience weight loss or poor feeding due to an inability to process bilirubin in their system. Jaundiced infants are often lethargic, fussy, and sleepy. They may have difficulty staying awake while feeding, and their temperatures can be lower than normal. Other symptoms include a yellowish discolouration of the palms and soles of the feet that may spread to other body parts. In severe cases, jaundice can lead to neurological damage or death.

What are the risks and complications associated with neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal jaundice is caused by an imbalance between the production and breakdown of bilirubin, a yellow pigment found in haemoglobin. The main risk factors for neonatal jaundice are prematurity, Rh incompatibility, infection, breastfeeding difficulties, congenital abnormalities of the liver or red blood cells, G6PD deficiency, and exposure to certain drugs. Additionally, infants born to mothers with diabetes or who were exposed to alcohol during pregnancy may be at a higher risk for jaundice.

How can one prevent neonatal jaundice?

Neonatal jaundice is commonly caused by an immature liver, infection, and other medical conditions. Premature birth and polycythemia are the most significant risk factors for neonatal jaundice. Premature babies have underdeveloped livers that can't process bilirubin as quickly as full-term infants. Polycythemia occurs when a baby has too many red blood cells, which can block the flow of bilirubin through the liver. Infections, such as sepsis, can also cause an increase in bilirubin levels. Other risk factors include breastfeeding, dehydration, and Rh incompatibility between mother and infant.

Neonatal jaundice is a common condition in newborns. It occurs when the baby’s liver is not yet fully developed and thus cannot process the bilirubin in the bloodstream. While it can be managed and treated, it should still be taken seriously. Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms so they can take appropriate action if needed. With early detection and proper management, neonatal jaundice can be managed effectively to ensure a healthy start for babies and peace of mind for parents. As such, parents need to stay informed about this condition so that they are prepared to seek medical advice if necessary.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru - Koramangala. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. Are there any long-term health effects associated with neonatal jaundice?

Yes, if left untreated, severe cases of neonatal jaundice can cause damage to an infant's hearing or brain development.

2. What are some signs and symptoms of neonatal jaundice?

The most common sign of neonatal jaundice is yellowing of the skin and eyes (icterus), as well as dark urine and pale stools.

3. How is neonatal jaundice treated?

The treatment for neonatal jaundice varies depending on its severity but may include phototherapy, exchange transfusions, or IV fluids to help reduce bilirubin levels in the blood.

4. When should I seek medical attention for my newborn infant?

If you notice your infant has yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, or pale stools, it is important to seek medical attention right away, as these could be signs of neonatal jaundice.

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