Kernicterus is a bilirubin -induced brain dysfunction. Bilirubin is a naturally occurring substance in the body of humans and many other animals, but it is neurotoxic when its concentration in the blood is too high, a condition known as hyperbilirubinemia. Hyperbilirubinemia may cause bilirubin to accumulate in the grey matter of the central nervous system , potentially causing irreversible neurological damage. Depending on the level of exposure, the effects range from clinically unnoticeable to severe brain damage and even death. When hyperbilirubinemia increases past a mild level, it leads to jaundice , raising the risk of progressing to kernicterus. When this happens in adults, it is usually because of liver problems.
High Bilirubin Levels in Adults
Kernicterus | Doctor | Patient
Contact Our Team. When jaundice and hyperbilirubinemia go untreated and develop into kernicterus, babies risk developing the following:. Jaundice is very easy to diagnose and treat—treatments include blood exchange transfusions, treatment of the underlying causes of the condition, and forms of phototherapy using special lights to decrease bilirubin levels. On the other hand, the consequences of kernicterus are permanent and irreversible. Since there is essentially no way for a newborn to develop kernicterus without first having an untreated case of hyperbilirubinemia, it is likely that babies with kernicterus are victims of medical malpractice. Whenever the signs and symptoms of jaundice are present, damage is occurring.
Can jaundice cause brain damage in adults?
Kernicterus is a form of preventable brain damage occurring in newborns with untreated severe jaundice. It is a very rare condition and devastating for affected families. Although kernicterus can cause permanent disability, immediate treatment can stop further damage from occurring.
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