What causes jaundice?

Newborn jaundice is usually caused by the newborn's inability to effectively clear bilirubin which is a breakdown product of red blood cells. The excess bilirubin leads to the jaundce appearance that is common in newborns. This will clear in about two weeks when the baby's liver matures enough to allow the baby to clear the jaundice. This is called physiologic jaundice and will resolve on its own. In some cases, jaundice can be caused by serious conditions such as prematurity, infection, abnormal breakdown of red blood cells, and liver problems.
John A. Chabot
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism

When the bile duct becomes blocked -- for any reason -- jaundice can occur.

Jaundice typically occurs in pancreatic cancer when a tumor in the head of the pancreas first narrows and then obstructs the common bile duct, blocking the flow of bile.

Gallstones, are a common cause of jaundice. Gallstones can also block the bile duct. Other causes of jaundice that are not obstructive include liver diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis, and other conditions that cause red blood cells to break down too quickly.

Continue Learning about Baby's Physical Health

Woof—It’s Good for Kiddy Gut Biome
Woof—It’s Good for Kiddy Gut Biome
George Graham Vest was a U.S. Senator in the late 1800s, but it’s the way he represented one of his constituents’ dog, Old Drum, that has made him par...
Read More
How often should my baby poop?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Once your baby is feeding and stooling well the first few weeks of age, it isn't uncommon for them t...
More Answers
What should I do if the baby is has tremors?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
If it's short in duration it could be the Moro reflex. If the shaking lasts longer than a few second...
More Answers
How can I protect my baby from germs?
Germs are good in moderation. Some illness is inevitable, and usually it’s not a big problem, howeve...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.