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Yellow eyes: Causes and Treatment

Your eyes can reveal a lot about your overall health. If you observe a yellowish tint to the white area of your eye, called the sclera, there’s a good chance something terrible is going on in your body that requires medical treatment. Yellowish discoloration of the eyes is known as jaundice. Now, what exactly does jaundice mean?

Yellow eyes


Jaundice is a medical disorder in which the blood contains high quantities of a pigment called bilirubin, which causes skin and eye yellowing. Jaundice is frequent in babies whose livers have not fully grown; around 60% of neonates suffer jaundice. It may also affect older children and adults.

When the liver breaks down old or dysfunctional red blood cells, it produces bilirubin, a yellow-orange pigment that causes jaundice. A healthy liver filters bilirubin from the blood and produces bile, which flows to the gallbladder via the bile ducts. Bilirubin is stored in the gallbladder and subsequently expelled from the body through waste processes once it reaches the gallbladder.

Bilirubin can build up in the blood if the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts do not function properly, giving the skin and whites of the eyes a yellowish tinge.

Causes of Yellow Eyes or Jaundice

Yellow eyes can be caused by a variety of factors that cause jaundice. Medical disorders such as the following, could be implicated:

  • Infection or inflammation of the liver caused by autoimmune disorders
  • Cirrhosis of the liver is a disease that affects the liver.
  • Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas (infection of the pancreas)
  • Cancer of the liver, pancreas, or gallbladder is a type of cancer that affects the liver, pancreas, or gallbla
  • Malaria
  • Red blood cell disorders are a type of blood disorder that affects the red blood cells (e.g., sickle cell anemia)
  • Genetic diseases that affect bilirubin metabolism.
  • Yellow eyes have also been connected to some drugs. Penicillin, oral contraceptives, chlorpromazine, and anabolic steroids are only a few examples. Excessive over-the-counter acetaminophen use might also cause eye yellowing.


The first step in treating yellow eyes is to figure out what’s causing them. Yellow eyes should improve after the underlying reason is addressed. Seek medical help right away if you see yellowing in your eyes or the eyes of a loved one. The sooner you can figure out what’s causing the problem, the better.


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