Kernicterus

Overview

Type of disease: Rare conditions

Kernicterus is a form of brain damage found in newborns with severe jaundice. Over half of all newborn infants are jaundiced. This means that they look yellow. Usually the yellow coloring is most noticeable in the skin and whites of the eyes. Babies who are jaundiced act like normal infants. The yellowing of the skin is caused by a substance called bilirubin. When the levels of bilirubin are too high, the substance can get into the brain causing damage. Symptoms include sleepiness, hard to wake up or keep awake, high-pitched cry, decreased muscle tone, seizures and fever. Phototherapy is treatment that uses light and helps fight jaundice. Blue light can make bilirubin harmless to the baby. Early treatment is very important for keeping the baby’s brain healthy. Always speak with your doctor about the best personal plan of action.

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