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Jaundice in newborns (also called hyperbilirubinemia) is a
condition in which the skin and the whites of a baby's eyes appear yellow
because of a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown
substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells.
During pregnancy, the mother's liver gets rid of fetal bilirubin.
After birth, babies must eliminate bilirubin on their own. But many
newborns cannot get rid of bilirubin as fast as they make it. Bilirubin then
builds up in the baby's body, causing jaundice.
Although jaundice should be monitored, it usually does not require
medical treatment. Phototherapy, in which a baby is placed under special lights
or fiber-optic blankets, may be used if bilirubin levels reach a high enough
level. On rare occasions blood transfusions are needed.
In rare cases, jaundice in a newborn may be a sign of another
condition, such as infection, a digestive system problem, or blood-type
incompatibility with the mother.
May 11, 2012
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Chuck Norlin, MD - Pediatrics
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