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Hyperbilirubinemia Causes

Bilirubin is excreted by the placenta during pregnancy. When the mother gives birth, the infant's liver must take over the function of bilirubin excretion. But sometimes, the baby is unable to properly excrete the substance. Physiological jaundice may result as a normal reaction the infant's limited ability to excrete bilirubin. Breast milk jaundice may occur as a result of low calorie intake or dehydration. Jaundice from hemolysis is possible when the baby's red blood cells break down as a result of a hemolytic disease (Rh disease) or bleeding. Jaundice related to liver defects may also develop due to infections and other factors.

Hyperbilirubinemia Definition

Hyperbilirubinemia is characterized by an excess of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a substance that forms when red blood cells break down. In infants, the bilirubin can accumulate in the blood and surrounding tissues, filling the baby's body with fluids. The result is a condition called hyperbilirubinemia. The excess bilirubin causes pigmentation or yellowing of the infant's skin and tissues, a condition known as jaundice.

Hyperbilirubinemia Diagnosis

Hyperbilirubinemia may be diagnosed through assessing direct and indirect bilirubin levels. This diagnostic approach often determines whether the substance is bound to other substances in the liver or circulating in the blood. A red blood cell count may also prove useful. Often, blood typing and testing for Rh incompatibility can provide some insight.

Hyperbilirubinemia Symptoms and Signs

A distinctive yellow coloring of the infant's skin, starting from the face and progressing to the lower part of the body, is often indicative of hyperbilirubinemia. Another telltale sign is lethargy in the infant or difficulties in feeding.

Hyperbilirubinemia Treatment

Treatment for hyperbilirubinemia is dependent on the cause of the disease as well as the amount of bilirubin in the body. The primary goal of treatment is to regulate bilirubin levels and prevent it from reaching dangerously elevated amounts. Treatment strategies may include phototherapy, fiberoptic blanket, exchange transfusion, restricting breastfeeding for 1-2 days, as well as treating any underlying causes (e.g. infections).

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