There are many symptoms that are caused by liver disease and jaundice is one of the most common. One of the signs of obstructive jaundice is having a yellowish tint to the skin and to the whites of the eyes. Obstructive jaundice also causes very dark colored urine and pale colored stools. Fever, chills, abdominal pain, weight loss, itchy skin, and diarrhea can also be signs of obstructive jaundice. When a blockage of the bile ducts system occurs, obstructive jaundice will usually proceed soon after.
Our liver typically produces about a liter of bile each day. The bile is secreted into the bile duct system and goes to the gallbladder where it stored. When we eat a meal, the bile is emptied from the gallbladder into the duct system and then to the upper intestine where it aids in the digestion of food. If a blockage occurs anywhere in the bile duct system it causes a back up of bile juices, which then overflow into the blood and causes an increased level of bilirubin in the blood. The end result is obstructive jaundice.
One of the most frequent causes of obstructive jaundice is gallstones. Gallstones are pebble like deposits in the gallbladder which occur when cholesterol and other things found in the bile become hardened. Gallstones can be very tiny, almost too small to see, or they can be very large, nearing the size of a golf ball. If a stone is too large it can cause an obstruction when it tries to pass through the bile duct system. If the stone is not firmly stuck then the jaundice may not last very long however if it does become lodged then you will develop symptoms of jaundice and other symptoms as well.
Another common cause of obstructive jaundice is tumors of the liver, pancreas or bile duct. Cancer of the pancreas or liver can cause obstructive jaundice as well. Hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus, can cause obstructive jaundice and alcoholism is a big factor as well. Taking certain medications can contribute to obstructive jaundice as can experiencing trauma to the liver area. Primary biliary cirrhosis is a disease of the liver that slowly destroys the bile ducts. Sclerosing Cholangitis is hardening and scarring of tissues of the bile duct caused by inflammation and Biliary Atresia is a condition in which the bile ducts that carry the bile out of the liver are missing or damaged. Other causes of obstructive jaundice can include having parasites or worms, which is possible but rare, and scarring to the liver from previous surgery.
Once obstructive jaundice has been diagnosed treatment should begin immediately. Treatment for obstructive jaundice includes surgical removal of the obstruction using a procedure called ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography). With this procedure you will be sedated and the doctor will use an endoscope that will be inserted into your mouth, down your esophagus, into the stomach and into the intestine looking for the blockage. Another procedure that can be used is laparoscopic surgery which is where the surgeon makes one inch incisions to reach the obstruction. Other treatment might be to cease all medications that are suspected in causing liver inflammation and antibiotics may be started to treat infection. In cases of obstructive jaundice caused by cancer, treatments may include chemotherapy, radiation and biliary drainage. Surgery is rarely used in these cases. With biliary atresia a liver transplant may be necessary, especially in children.
Some complications of obstructive jaundice can include confusion, fatigue, and vitamin k deficiency. Vitamin K deficiency can cause the blood to be unable to clot effectively which can then lead to excessive bleeding and bruising. Cirrhosis of liver, acute liver failure, and brain disorders are caused by the liver not filtering the waste products out of the blood properly. Malabsorption syndrome can be another side effect of obstructive jaundice which means the body is not able to absorb nutrients properly.
There are many reasons in which obstructive jaundice can cause serious harm to the body therefore obstructive jaundice requires immediate medical attention.