Jaundice is a common and usually harmless condition in newborn infants. Jaundice describes the yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes and the skin of many newborn babies.
Physiologic or “normal” jaundice usually appears on the second or third day of life in healthy babies born after a fullterm pregnancy. It often disappears within a week. Doctors estimate that as many as one third of full-term babies get physiologic jaundice.
- In most babies, jaundice occurs because the liver is not yet fully mature.
- All during life, new red blood cells are created and old ones are destroyed. As the old cells are broken down, myessaywritingservices.com an ingredient in the cells known as hemoglobin is changed into bilirubin and removed by the liver. Until a baby’s liver begins to function fully, bilirubin tends to build up in the baby’s bloodstream, causing the skin and the whites of the eyes to appear yellow.
- Whether or not babies receive treatment for jaundice depends on how severe the condition is.
- Physiologic (normal) jaundice usually disappears without treatment. In some instances, the doctor may suggest giving the baby extra fluids.
- When a baby’s jaundice requires treatment, a technique called phototherapy is usually used.
- Phototherapy simply means treatment using light. Light speeds up the removal of bilirubin from the body.
- In phototherapy, the baby’s skin is exposed to special, high-intensity lights, often called “bililights.” All the baby’s clothes are removed and the eyes are covered to protect them from the light.
- Phototherapy continues until the amount of bilirubin in the baby’s blood reaches and remains at a normal or near-normal level.
- Some babies may need to stay in the hospital for a day or two after the mother is discharged for phototherapy or to make sure the bilirubin level doesn’t rise again.