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Jaundice: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Jaundice is yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes. It is caused by a pigment, or colouring, called bilirubin that comes from the breakdown of red blood cells. A healthy liver removes the pigment from your blood. If the liver is not working right, the pigment can build up in the blood and get into the skin and other tissues. Many diseases can cause jaundice, including hepatitis, gallstones, and liver damage from heavy drinking over a long time. Cancer of the pancreas also can cause it. Some medicines that can damage the liver also cause jaundice.

The treatment for jaundice depends on the cause. You may need medicine to treat an infection. Or you may need to have your gallbladder removed. Some people need to stop drinking alcohol. If another disease is causing jaundice, treating the disease will cure the jaundice. If a medicine you are taking is causing jaundice, your doctor may switch you to another one.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not drink any alcohol until your jaundice is gone. Alcohol will damage the liver more. If your jaundice is caused by drinking alcohol, do not drink alcohol even when you are better. Tell your doctor if you need help to quit. Counselling, support groups, and sometimes medicines can help you stay sober.
  • Do not take any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines and natural health products, without talking to your doctor first.
  • Make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you take. Some medicines, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can make liver problems worse.
  • If you have itchy skin, keep cool and stay out of the sun. Try to wear cotton clothing. Talk to your doctor about medicines that can be used for itching. Follow the instructions on the label.
  • Lower your activity to match your energy.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are confused, or your confusion gets worse.
  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have severe pain or swelling in your belly.
  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You are vomiting or feel sick to your stomach.
  • Your urine is dark yellow-brown, or your stools are light-coloured.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.