Changes in skin color may represent a symptom of suffering from an underlying disease in an organ of the human body.

One of these symptoms, for example, is yellow skin due to the increase of certain substances in excessive amounts in the blood, causing these disorders in the coloration of visible parts of the body.

In this article, we provide you with important information on what causes yellow skin and how you can get rid of it.

What are the causes of yellow skin?

Yellow skin in humans comes from the failure of certain chemical and metabolic processes in the body, which we mention below:

1. Infections and gallstones

One of the main functions of the liver is the breakdown of body waste , including bilirubin. 

In this sense, infectious diseases in this organ such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and hepatitis E or by a parasite, can cause this purification process not to take place , causing an excess of bilirubin in blood, causing yellowing of the skin and the conjunctive membrane of the eyes.

Note: In the same way, it occurs with bile, which, when accumulated in the gallbladder due to obstruction by gallstones caused by a process called gallstones (1) , can cause increased levels of bilirubin in the blood , causing the yellowish skin. 

2. Liver problems and conditions of the pancreas

Another cause of yellow skin or jaundice are liver problems such as liver failure (2) , making it impossible to remove excess bilirubin from the blood.

To highlight: Jaundice is very common in newborn children, due to the fact that their liver is not yet fully mature and cannot temporarily fulfill its functions, among other reasons. (3)

Likewise, conditions in the pancreas such as pancreatitis (4) in its different stages, usually present yellowing of the skin and eyes among its symptoms . Pancreatic cancer can also cause yellow skin or jaundice.

3. Drug use

There are a wide variety of medications, the excessive use of which can cause yellow skin or jaundice such as amiodarone, anabolic steroids, birth control pills , chlorpromazine, erythromycin , halothane (a type of anesthesia), methyldopa, isoniazid among others.

4. Congenital abnormalities

Other situations related to genetics can cause yellow skin. For example , Gilbert’s Syndrome (5) is a hereditary condition in which the liver does not produce the enzyme to process bilirubin, so it cannot remove it from the bloodstream, causing jaundice. 

How do you know if you have jaundice?

The patient with yellow skin or jaundice shows visible signs of having this symptom or suffering from an underlying disease, which we mention below:

1. Yellow tone in eyes and mouth

As we have previously mentioned, the characteristic manifestation of jaundice is the yellowish hue of the skin , in the whites of the eyes and in the mouth.

Likewise, we have indicated that this undoubtedly indicates another disease of greater complication, for which the patient should visit a doctor as soon as possible.

You should know: Jaundice consists of the presence of high amounts of a by-product of red blood cell catabolism , called bilirubin, responsible for yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. (6)

2. Brown urine and pale stools

Another sample that can further confirm the presence of jaundice in a patient is through complementary urine and feces tests , where the former will present a dark coloration and the feces will present a pale appearance.

Important: If you observe some of the mentioned symptoms, it is recommended that you go to a doctor in order to make the corresponding diagnosis.

3. Itching 

Another symptom associated with jaundice is the presence of burning or itching on the skin (pruritus) and although the mechanism by which it appears is unknown, it is believed to be due to the accumulation of bile salts in the skin.

How do you remove yellow skin?

The first thing that must be taken into consideration is that yellow skin is a symptom that arises as a result of a more complicated disease, so no treatment aimed at disappearing this symptom should be carried out, but rather the therapeutic treatment that is chosen, this disease must attack and with its remission, the yellow skin or jaundice must disappear.

Note: It has been said that exposure to the sun helps in the disappearance of jaundice in adults, however this is not the case, although it has been effective in certain types of jaundice in babies, together with the suspension of breastfeeding and blood exchange , if required. (7)

Key Findings

  • Yellow skin is a symptom that occurs in the pigmentation of the skin and the conjunctive membrane of the eye. 
  • Yellow skin, or jaundice, consists of the presence of high amounts of a byproduct of red blood cell catabolism called bilirubin.
  • Yellow skin or jaundice is more frequent in the newborn than in the adult population.
  • Yellow skin or jaundice is a symptom that signals the presence of a more complex disease .

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