Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin, the whites of the eyes and other membranes. It is caused by a buildup of bilirubin, an otherwise harmless by-product of the processing of dead red blood cells by the spleen that is usually processed by the liver into other harmless by-products. It can have several causes, but it is a classic sign of liver failure and, at least in adults, always indicates a serious underlying condition.
Jaundice indicates one of three things:
- That too many red blood cells are being destroyed, overwhelming the ability of the liver to cope with the bilirubin.