Neonatal Jaundice- That Yellow Glow

July 15, 2022

Ophthalmologist's Department

One of the most frequent topics that I am constantly asked about is neonatal jaundice. This is one of the simplest and most common neonatal problems, however it is one of the hardest (in my opinion) topics to explain and teach to parents. So here’s essentially what you need to know-

Jaundice is just a medical word for yellowing of the skin. Jaundice is caused by a buildup of something called bilirubin. Bilirubin is a product that is created when red blood cells are broken down. As adults, our red blood cells have much longer life spans. Red blood cells in babies are broken down and replaced a lot more frequently. Given this fact- and the fact that the newborn liver is not fully mature at birth and therefore is not as effective at removing the bilirubin from the blood- this causes bilirubin to build up in the blood causing the yellowing of the skin. Jaundice in term infants rarely needs any treatment and usually resolves on its own by two weeks of life.   There are some factors that put some infants more at risk than others. And if your child happens to fall into this category, the treatment is easy! They just will go under phototherapy (blue lights) for a couple of days until the bilirubin decreases.

And do not worry, your newborn team and your pediatrician will follow these levels until they are no longer an issue.