Jaundice is a symptom, which may be associated with several conditions. Jaundice is characterized by yellowish discoloration of the skin, the conjunctiva and the mucous membranes. This discoloration is attributed to elevated level of bilirubin in the blood (above the normal level of 1.2mg/dl).
Jaundice is usually seen in association with conditions that lead to stress or strain on the liver like hepatitis, gallstones or liver cancer. Other causes include congenital condition like biliary atresia.
Causes And Mechanism Of Itching In Jaundice
Jaundice is not a disease, but just a symptom which may be observed in multiple conditions. Jaundice is caused when the normal pathway of metabolism of bilirubin is significantly altered.
Under normal conditions, the red blood cells, having an average life span of 120 days, degenerate in the spleen. The cell membrane ruptures and the cellular content namely hemoglobin is released into the blood.
Globin is broken down into amino acids, while heme through two metabolic processes, gets converted into bilirubin. This bilirubin is referred to as ‘unconjugated’ or free bilirubin. On an average 4 mg of bilirubin per liter of blood is produced each day.
This free bilirubin then travels to the liver, via blood. Since bilirubin is not soluble, it is bound to serum albumin for the transportation. In the liver, bilirubin conjugates with glucuronic acid and becomes water soluble. This conjugated biliribun is excreted through the liver in the form of bile salts. Bile salts are eventually either excreted through the intestine or through the kidneys. Bilirubin is responsible for the typical color of the stools.
In jaundice, this elimination pathway is obstructed, which results in bile salts getting accumulated into the liver and therefore in the blood stream. Bile salts get accumulated below the skin or under the mucus membrane. This triggers an inflammatory reaction, which in turn causes severe itching, due to release of histamine, phagocytes and fluid. The severity of the itching usually depends upon concentration of bile salts accumulated.
Natural Remedies To Reduce Itching In Jaundice
As mentioned, itching in jaundice is linked with the accumulation of bile salts and hence it becomes important to deal with jaundice in order to alleviate the symptoms of itching. Here are some useful tips,
- Ensure a light diet which is free of fats, cheese, butter, etc. Eat simple foods like boiled vegetables and steamed rice which can be digested easily. This reduces strain on the liver and hastens recovery.
- Stop consumption of alcohol and smoking. Both these lead to strain on the liver and hence aggravate itching.
- Cold water bath can be very useful. Cold water acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent by causing vasoconstriction. This in turn has a soothing effect on the skin and also reduces itching.
- Consumption of turmeric is considered beneficial. While dairy products need to be avoided, add a table spoon of turmeric to an equal amount of raw honey and consume it twice a day. This can help reduce itching and alleviate other associated symptoms of jaundice.
- Vitamin K supplements along with homeopathic drugs like chelidonium are considered useful to boost liver functions and hasten recovery. They also attribute to reducing the symptoms of itching.