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What Happens if Jaundice Goes Untreated in Infants?

Oct. 22, 2019

Jaundice refers to a condition that makes the skin and whites of a newborn’s eyes appear yellow in color. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this condition is the result of the buildup of bilirubin in the baby’s blood. Buildup occurs when the baby’s liver is unable to remove the chemical, which typically happens because the baby’s lungs are underdeveloped. In most cases, jaundice is easily treated by placing a baby under special lights and increasing his or her milk intake. If treated, jaundice is not a dangerous condition. However, when jaundice remains left untreated for too long, it can turn into kernicterus, which is dangerous. If you recently had a baby in Michigan, the CDC explains what kernicterus is and how to detect severe cases of jaundice.

Kernicterus is a type of brain damage that develops when high levels of bilirubin sit in the baby’s blood for too long. The condition can cause vision and hearing problems, dental issues and athetoid cerebral palsy. In some cases, it can result in intellectual disabilities.

Jaundice is a visible condition that is characterized by a yellowish tint that begins on the face and moves downwards across the torso and extremities. The progressive spread of the tint over the baby’s body is an indicator that the bilirubin levels are increasing. Though somewhat easy to detect in babies with light skin, jaundice can be more subtle in babies with darker skin. For this reason, it is essential to know the other symptoms of the condition.

According to the CDC, other symptoms of jaundice include difficulty waking or not sleeping at all, excessive fussiness, dehydration and difficulty suckling. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your baby to the doctor right away. You should seek emergency medical attention if your baby cries inconsolably at a high pitch, arches like a bow, has strange eye movements or has a limp, stiff or floppy body.

You should not use this article as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.