It may not be the first thing that parents of infants born prematurely think of, but jaundice is one of the most common problems that newborns with under-developed organs face. Unfortunately, some nurses and physicians may not always recognize jaundice in newborns, which can lead to serious medical problems.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 60 percent of newborn babies develop jaundice, a condition where bilirubin – the remains of old blood cells – build up in the blood stream. A normally functioning adult liver usually breaks down bilirubin and, during pregnancy, a mother’s liver performs that function for her child. If a child is born too early, or if other problems arise, his liver can fail to perform correctly on its own.
The most common symptom of jaundice is, of course, a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. It can sometimes be difficult to notice jaundice in babies with darker skin tones, but doctors can perform tests to confirm a diagnosis.
If recognized early, jaundice is easily treated. If treatment is delayed, however, serious medical problems can result. One condition is kernicterus, a form of brain damage caused by too much bilirubin in the bloodstream.
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