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One of the most recognized symptoms of jaundice in newborns is the yellowing of the skin and sclera, the whites of the eyes, as well as the yellowing of the mucous membranes. In addition, lethargy, the development of an abnormal positioning of the head and back, high-pitched crying, lack of eating, and the development of strange muscle tone are also symptoms of jaundice. Jaundice in newborns can be effectively treated, but action should be taken as soon as possible to prevent serious and dangerous side effects. Without treatment, the condition can lead to brain damage. Doctors often use phototherapy as a treatment, but other methods, such as exchange transfusions, may also be needed.
Jaundice in newborns is a fairly common condition, affecting around 50% of newborn babies. The condition is caused when the excess red blood cells that are present in a baby's blood stream during delivery die rapidly, forming bilirubin. Normally, the baby's liver and his normal eating and digestion will eliminate the substance from the blood stream. In many cases, however, the liver of many babies may not be able to handle the load. Instead bilirubin builds up and can cause the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes look yellow and may cause the baby's urine to look dark yellow.
One of the more severe symptoms of jaundice in newborns is lethargy. A normal baby should be easy to wake and should wake completely. If a newborn baby cannot wake easily or is not able to stay awake, it could be a symptom of jaundice. If the baby is experiencing an abnormal arching of the head and back, a high pitched cry, or strange muscle tone, parents should seek treatment for their baby. These symptoms could be signs of brain damage due to the build up of bilirubin, and immediate medical attention should be sought.
Phototherapy can transform bilirubin into a water-soluble substance that can be easily removed from the body. This is a reason some babies are placed underneath lamps when they have newborn jaundice. Other treatments may include exchange transfusions, a procedure in which blood is removed from a patient and new blood is transfused. In either case, if a parent notices any sign of jaundice in his newborn, he should rush the child for emergency medical care. Brain damage caused by jaundice in newborns can be avoided or reduced if the child is treated as soon as possible.