Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can jaundice affect African Americans?"
I am a 32 year old african american and my eyes are looking yellow. Can this be jaundice? Does it affect us?
Jaundice is a clinical finding in which the levels of bilirubin in the blood are elevated. Jaundice generally appears if the bilirubin concentration/levels in the blood go above 2.5. The high levels of bilirubin often cause yellowing of the skin, the whites of the eyes, and mucus membranes (for example under the tongue). Anyone can become jaundiced regardless of race, although darker skin makes it harder to see the "Yellowing" of the skin. Scleral icterus is a physical exam finding which describes the yellowing of the whites of the eyes, which sounds like is what you are describing. Jaundice and increased bilirubin can be caused by many thing. Some examples include liver disease, gallstones in the common bile duct, pancreatitis or pancreatic mass, or any other obstruction of the common bile duct. In African Americans, Hemolysis from sickle cell anemia can sometimes cause jaundice. I highly recommend that you see your primary care physician to get some basic tests that can evaluate for a possible cause of the jaundice. Blood tests (CBC with peripheral smear, and liver function tests), and imaging (ultrasound and CT scan) can be used to narrow down the cause of jaundice. It is very important to find the cause of hyperbilirubinemia.