Often, jaundice is not a disease in itself but a fore bringer of some other ailments. This disorder is characterised by the yellowish traces found on the skin surface and also on the white portion of the eyes. The colour change is due to the increased level of the chemical bilirubin in blood. If the bilirubin levels are extremely high, a brown colour is resulted.
Bilirubin is found in red blood cells. As the red blood cells get old, they become destroyed. When the RBCs get destroyed, haemoglobin present inside is released. Haemoglobin is the iron-containing chemical that transports oxygen to the various cells. Bilirubin is what remains in the destroyed red blood cells after the removal of iron content. It is the function of the liver to get rid of the toxic waste materials such as bilirubin from the body. In normal cases, bilirubin gets attached to certain other chemicals by the liver cells and is secreted into the bile. This conjugated bilirubin eventually gets eliminated from the body.
Jaundice occurs when some irregularity creeps into this system. When there is too much of bilirubin being produced, then the liver fails in its attempts to get it completely removed from the blood. Any disorder in the functioning of liver also checks the proper removal of bilirubin from the blood. In such a case, bilirubin does not get effectively transformed into the conjugated complex, neither is it properly secreted into the bile.
A blockage in the bile duct is yet another cause of jaundice. In such a situation, the free flow of bilirubin from the liver to the intestines is prevented. The block in the bile duct might be due to some cancerous growth, gallstones or inflammation. That kind of restricted conjugation, which may result in jaundice, is termed cholestasis. However, it should be noted that not all cholestasis result in jaundice.