What is Neonatal Jaundice?

Jaundice is a condition in which the skin on the face, trunk, arms, legs, and the white of the eye, called the sclera, appears yellow in color. Jaundice can occur as a result of many different diseases. Jaundice can be seen in adults as well as in children and newborn babies. Red blood cells, which carry oxygen in the blood and give the blood its color, are destroyed in the body every 3 months and new ones are formed in their place.

During this event in the body, the yellowing substance called bilirubin is formed as a result of the biochemical reactions of the hemoglobin substance in the red blood cells. The task of clearing bilirubin from the body is done by the liver. However, jaundice may become visible as a result of excess destruction in red blood cells, liver disorders, and deficiencies in the body’s biochemical pathways related to cleansing.

Jaundice observed in infants is called neonatal jaundice. It occurs during the adaptation process in the first days after birth, which is generally called “physiological jaundice.” Because the neonatal jaundice substance called bilirubin is cleared through the placenta while in the mother’s womb, and this task is now undertaken by the baby’s liver. However, apart from this reason, neonatal jaundice may also occur as a result of blood incompatibility between the mother and father, insufficient nutrition in infants, infections, rare liver-biliary tract diseases, and metabolic diseases.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of jaundice in infants are the appearance of yellow color in the skin and whites of the eyes, prolongation of sleep times, and changes in the color of urine and feces. In mild jaundice, the bilirubin level is detected in low amounts by blood tests. Clinically, jaundice is in the eye sclera and only on the face or upper trunk. As jaundice increases, the level of bilirubin measured in the blood also rises, and jaundice is seen in the whole body in babies.

In cases of jaundice at high levels, bilirubin can cross the blood-brain barrier in the body and cause permanent damage to the brain regions called basal ganglia. In this case, babies may develop permanent neurological problems that affect them for life. To prevent this situation, babies should have regular doctor checks in the newborn period. Examination and blood tests of babies at risk should be requested as prescribed by the doctor.

What Are the Symptoms of Neonatal Jaundice?

In order to reduce bilirubin levels to normal levels in the treatment, a method known as “phototherapy,” popularly known as purple light therapy, can be used. In advanced cases, “exchange transfusion,” that is, a blood exchange method, can be applied to infants. In addition, if there is an underlying health problem, such as a urinary tract infection that causes neonatal jaundice, it should be treated.

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