The sclera of the eyes should always look white. If there is any change in color such as becoming red or yellow, it could be a sign of an underlying condition.
Conjunctival or scleral icterus is a type of eye discoloration which turns the sclera to yellow. Yellow eyes are commonly a symptom of jaundice, a condition caused by elevated levels of bilirubin. Jaundice usually occurs in newborns but can also occur at any age but is far less common.
While not being a disease itself, jaundice signifies malfunctioning of the liver, bile ducts, or gallbladder. This causes yellow discoloration to the body which shows up first in the sclera or the white part of the eye. A normally functioning liver filters bilirubin from the blood and flows through the bile ducts all the way to the gallbladder where this pigment is stored and excreted.
Although jaundice changes the color of the eyes, it does not affect vision.
Other Conditions That Can Cause Yellow Eyes Are:
- Acute pancreatitis, or pancreatic infection
- Hemolytic anemia, where the blood lacks normal red blood cells.
- Malaria, a mosquito-borne infection of the blood
- Some cancers, such as liver, pancreas, and gallbladder cancer as well as some rare genetic disorders that affect the liver
- Medications such as excessive acetaminophen, penicillin, anabolic steroids, and certain oral contraceptives can cause yellow eyes.
Treatment of Yellow Eyes
The yellow eyes itself is not treated, rather, the underlying condition should be the focus of the treatment. Complete blood count, bilirubin levels test, and other liver tests are some of the best treatment options for yellow eyes. The results of the tests, medical history, review of symptoms, imaging tests, and physical exams will help for proper diagnosis.
If yellow eyes are caused by alcohol or drugs, it is best to stop the use of these substances to promote healing. For causes like hepatitis C or malaria infection, antiviral medications may be given.
A good diet, staying well-hydrated, and following a healthy lifestyle can also help in faster treatment to help the liver process better with good nutrition. Avoid refined sugars and saturated fats as these are harder for the liver to digest.
In severe cases, it may be necessary for surgery to treat a blocked bile duct. Yellow eyes is a serious medical condition that should not be ignored. If liver disease or other serious medical condition is the underlying cause, immediate diagnosis and treatment is required to prevent worse complications such as organ damage.