Is jaundice contagious? Everything to be aware of

Often when you have a pale skin with yellowish eyes, people will tell you that you suffer from jaundice. For rightly so the reason as skin change is one major way to identify this condition.

Jaundice has become increasingly common and a large chunk of the population gets inflicted with this disease. It can nearly affect anyone regardless of age and gender. Though people with a weak immune system are more prone than any other population. The illness may pose severe symptoms at times while in other cases they might just be mild. The fortunate side is that jaundice is curable and people recover considerably well. It is yet still important to know about the outlook of the disease and take preventive measures.

One common question posed by patients is that whether jaundice is contagious or not? Meaning by that if one person has the condition, can another person be affected through any sort of contact

What is jaundice?

Jaundice occurs when excessive bilirubin accumulates in the body. Bilirubin is yellow like component making up the haemoglobin. With the disease, it gets broken down and starts to be collected. In normal circumstances, it will be transported to the liver which then leads it to the bile ducts. From here onwards, bilirubin is ultimately removed from the body through urine. A person suffering from jaundice will find him/herself collecting this substance and being unable to be transported out of the body. As a consequence, resulting in the development of certain symptoms.

Types of jaundice

Medical scientists have been able to identify three main types of jaundice. They are categorized on the basis of where the bilirubin starts to accumulate.

The first stage is known as the pre-haptic stage. Here the substance is collected before it passes to the liver. The second stage, in the hepatic stage, the bilirubin is collected in high amounts within the liver. Finally, in the post-hepatic stage, the collection takes place once it has passed from the liver into the bile ducts.

How is jaundice caused?

It is important to know what some of the causes of jaundice are. By knowing so, one can enlighten him/herself of all the ways that can be taken to prevent the condition from occurring.

The disease results when red blood cells in the body get destroyed in large numbers. Faced with such a situation, the levels of bilirubin elevate preventing the liver from transporting the substance to the bile duct. There are several reasons as to why this would happen. Mainly when a person is already suffering from an autoimmune disease, malaria or hepatitis, jaundice can result. In other frequent instances, substance abuse was also known to contribute to the development of the disease.

The yellow pale colour of the skin happens when bilirubin is able to leak into the nearby tissues of the bloodstream.

Who are at risk of jaundice?

While it is true that jaundice can inflict anyone, some people are more prone than others. We have seen that people with certain diseases are more likely to be affected than others. We will now look into how some of these conditions lead to the development of jaundice.


What it does?

Inflammation of liver The inflammation of the liver can restrict its ability to perform its function of transportation and secretion. As a result, bilirubin starts gradually increasing in the body.
Bile duct inflammation If the bile duct happens to be inflamed then the bilirubin that is transported to the region may not find its way out.
Hemolytic anaemia A person inflicted with hemolytic anaemia suffers from the destruction of red blood cells in large numbers. The red blood cells get destroyed while the quantity of bilirubin elevates.
Cholestasis Cholestasis is a rare disease and will affect only a small portion of the population. In this disease, bile that is loaded with bilirubin is unable to move out from the liver. It gets restricted to where it is and this results in the buildup of bilirubin.


Why newborns suffer from jaundice?

One rather sad fact about jaundice is that newborns are at a great risk of being inflicted. In the US alone, more than 50 per cent of the babies born suffered from jaundice. Even the infants that were still in the pregnancy stage exhibited symptoms of the disease.

This is because, with newborns, red blood cells are increasingly being produced and destroyed. With such scenario occurring, the bilirubin starts building up in the baby’s body gradually. Moreover, the liver in the birth period has not yet developed in its proper capacity making the filtration process far more difficult. If the conditions are not properly treated then jaundice can result in a more severe outcome of brain damage. In other cases, the doctor will usually carry out a blood transfusion program to have control over the illness.

Is jaundice contagious?

The answer to the question is twofold. While jaundice itself may not be contagious the underlying factors leading to its development are. Meaning by the disease that causes jaundice may transfer from one person to the other. In turn that disease can cause jaundice.

Let us take the example of Hepatitis A. This condition is likely to result in places where there is a lack of proper access to sanitation facilities. It can be transferred from one person to the other easily. If you happen to eat the food of the person inflicted with Hepatitis A, you increase your chance of being affected yourself. When suffering from this disease, your chances of getting jaundice also increase greatly.

Similarly, Yellow Fever is another contagious illness present widely in the areas of Africa. It is caused by a particular mosquito bite and can transport to people easily. When yellow fever proceeds into its later stage, the person is most likely to suffer from jaundice.

It is also important to note that some medications may also result in jaundice. The American Academy of Family Physicians has highlighted around 150 different types of medications which can lead to liver damage. It is thereby pertinent to consult your doctor before taking any synthetic drug.

In addition, excessive consumption of alcohol should be stopped. Failing to do so can cause cirrhosis or liver damage which propels the buildup of bilirubin.

What causes of jaundice are not contagious?

Fortunately, there are also underlying causes of jaundice which may not be contagious. A person having that disease in no way affect the other people around him/her. Typically those conditions which are genetically transferred cannot be inflicted by others. For example, sickle cell anaemia, Autoimmune disease and Gilbert’s syndrome are all the diseases that are inherited. They initiate during birth and the symptoms may cause jaundice. However, in no capacity will these genetic disorders be transferred from one person to the other.




Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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