What Is Jaundice Or Icterus? Types Of Jaundice And Their Causes

Jaundice Or Icterus:

It is the condition distinguished by yellow coloration of the skin, mucous membrane and deeper tissues due to enhanced bilirubin level in blood. It is derived from the French word ‘jaune’ which meaning yellow. The normal level of serum bilirubin is 0.5 to 1.5 mg/dL. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin level exceeds 2 mg/dL.

Types Of Jaundice:

Jaundice is classified into three types:

  • Prehepatic or Hemolytic Jaundice
  • Hepatic or Hepatocellular Jaundice
  • Posthepatic or Obstructive Jaundice.

1- Prehepatic or Hemolytic Jaundice:

The Hemolytic jaundice is the kind of jaundice, occurs due to excessive destruction of RBCs resulting in increased blood level of free (unconjugated) bilirubin. In this condition, the excretory function of liver is normal. But the quantity of bilirubin increases enormously. The cells of liver can not excrete that much excess bilirubin fastly. Unconjugated bilirubin is  not soluble in water and not excreted from urine. So, it adds in the blood which results in jaundice. The formation of urobilinogen may also increases which results in the excretion of extra quantity of urobilinogen in urine.


Any type of condition that causes hemolytic anemia may occur hemolytic jaundice. Common causes of hemolytic jaundice are:

  • Renal Disorder
  • Hypersplenism
  • Burns
  • Infections such as malaria
  • Hemoglobin abnormalities for example thalassemia or sickle cell anemia.
  • Drugs or chemical substances causing red cell damage
  • Autoimmune diseases.

2- Hepatic or Hepatocellular or Cholestatic Jaundice:

Hepatic jaundice is the kind of jaundice, occurs due to the destruction of hepatic cells. Due to damage, the conjugated bilirubin cannot be excreted from liver and it returns back to blood.


  • Infection (infective jaundice) due to virus and results in hepatitis (viral hepatitis)
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis of liver
  • Exposure to toxic materials.

3- Posthepatic or Obstructive or Extrahepatic Jaundice:

Posthepatic kind of jaundice may occur due to the obstruction of bile flow at any level of the biliary system. The bile cannot be excreted into small intestine. That’s why, bile salts and bile pigments enter in to the circulation. The blood contains more amount of conjugated bilirubin.

Causes :

  • Gallstones
  • Cancer of biliary system or pancreas.
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