Prolonged Jaundice in Newborns – Causes, Symptoms, Investigation, And Treatment

Prolonged Jaundice in Newborns - Causes, Symptoms, Investigation, And Treatment
Prolonged Jaundice in Newborns - Causes, Symptoms, Investigation, And Treatment
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Kirti Bhartari

Kirti Bhartari

I am mother of one. Beside nurturing her the best way I can and taking care of my family fronts, I am passionate about cooking and ayurvedas. I also like spending time around intellectuals. And, in future, I would like to start my own NGO with one motive - helping humanity.

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According to doctors, almost every newborn goes through this stage. In some cases, jaundice moves faster and harder in others. Regarding the normal duration of jaundice in newborn, it varies between 2-3 days and about 3 weeks. And, when this period is exceeded, it is known as prolonged jaundice.

Usually, jaundice disappears without treatment, being considered by pediatricians as a normal physiological state. But, prolonged jaundice is different and should not be seen as normal jaundice.

Prolonged jaundice is more common in preterm children, and in children with a low birth weight. Prolonged jaundice symptoms may be closely linked to hyperthyroidism, metabolic diseases, biliary atresia or neonatal hepatitis.

What are the causes?

Prolonged jaundice may be the first sign of infection, thyroid disease or blood disorders, hepatitis or other liver diseases or other acquired. This form of jaundice usually begins after the seventh day of life and can last from several weeks to two months. It manifests usually in premature infants and babies with low birth weight.

Jaundice usually occurs after an imbalance between production and elimination of bilirubin. There are many causes that can contribute to the prolongation of jaundice in newborns:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Biliary atresia
  • Galactosemia
  • Metabolic disease
  • Infection
  • Neonatal hepatitis or other liver diseases

Symptoms of prolonged jaundice 

  • Neonatal jaundice initially localized in the face and forehead and later be extended to other parts of the body viz trunk and extremities.
  • Neurological signs are muscle tone change, crying (altered), and drowsiness.
  • Look for stools (pale chalky) and/or dark urine that stains the nappy

How investigation of prolonged jaundice should be done?

Do no rely completely on visual inspection. After having an alarm or doubt, visit your doctor immediately. There are several procedures available like using a transcutaneous bilirubinometer, measuring serum bilirubin, and many others.

What is the treatment for prolonged jaundice?

In general, newborns, jaundice requires no special treatments. But if it persists for more than 3 weeks, further investigation by a pediatrician or a neonatologist are required.

Prolongation may suggest the occurrence of liver problems. Early identification of children with cholestatic liver diseases is critical because a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment are very important.

Do keep in mind that you are not supposed to take jaundice lightly because it can put your baby at a risk of a rare but serious complication of jaundice called kernicterus, which can cause brain damage.