Yellow eyes

Yellow Eyes : Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Yellow eyes refer to the changing color of the white part of eyes. The black part of the eyes acts for the vision and eyesight. The eye’s white part tells about the health. The white outer layer of the eye should always be white. If it turns yellow, then it indicates some problem going on in the body.

Many health problems cause for the yellow eyes. Significant health condition relates to liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. These ailments cause to build up an excess substance called bilirubin in the blood.

Bilirubin is an orangish-yellow color substance. It formed during the red blood cells break down. Later it gets excreted in the bile. The average levels of bilirubin range from 0.2 – 1.2 mg/dL. For adults, it may range from 0.1 – 0.4 mg/dL.

The Causes of Yellow Eyes

There are many health ailments which cause yellow eyes. Let’s have a detailed look over the causes.


Yellow pigmentation occurs in the eyes if you have Jaundice. Jaundice is a risky health problem.

Our body has hemoglobin which carries oxygen into the blood. When hemoglobin breaks down into bilirubin and body lack clearing, result in jaundice. The bilirubin supposed to pass in the bile ducts from the liver. Once the bilirubin enters in the bile duct, the body clears it through stool.

If this process struck anywhere, then the bilirubin starts to build-up. It appears in your skin and looks yellow. The same thing appears in your eyes also.

There are three types of Jaundice

Intra-hepatic jaundice:

In intrahepatic disease, the liver sustains significant damage. The vital hepatitis is another infection caused in the liver. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to stop the growing liver infection and jaundice.

If the infection caused by toxins exposure or alcohol, stop consuming alcohol. It will help to prevent the developing disease. The liver transplant is necessary for the severe liver condition.

Post-hepatic jaundice:

Post-hepatic also named as obstructive jaundice. The block in the bile duct causes post-hepatic. This condition requires surgery to treat the disease. Your doctor may suggest removing the gallbladder which is a part of the bile duct system.

Jaundice in the newborn:

In some cases, newborn babies have jaundice by birth. It happens because baby’s organs fully not developed to pas the bilirubin. This condition will get normal on its own after a few weeks.


Some people suffering from gallstones develop severe conditions. It may occur if the gallstone enters into another part of the gallbladder or digestive system. Often overgrowth of gallstones blocks the bile flow. The bile starts to build-up in the gallbladder and causes infection and inflammation. The swollen and blocked bile duct stops the bile entering in the liver. It may result in the excess collection of bilirubin and lead to yellow eyes.


Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. The viral infections are the common cause of hepatitis. Other reasons include autoimmune hepatitis which occurred by antibodies into your liver tissue. The liver performs critical functions to balance your overall metabolism. The liver functions include

  • Bile production for food digestion
  • Bilirubin excretion
  • Protein and carbohydrate breakdown
  • Glycogen storage
  • Enzymes activating
  • Clotting synthesis

When inflammation occurs in the liver, the above functions may get disturbed and cause yellow eyes. There are five types of viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis A

It is a hepatitis A virus occurs due to an infection. This disease happens through virus transmitted by consuming food or polluted water by feces in an affected person.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B spread through infectious body fluids such as blood, semen and vaginal secretions with hepatitis B virus. The infection spread by drug injection, razor sharing or having sex with an infected partner.

Hepatitis C

It occurs from HCV – hepatitis C virus. It spread by the direct contact with infected person’s fluids. It gets transmitted by injection or sexual contact.

Hepatitis D

It is also known as delta hepatitis. Hepatitis D is a severe liver condition affected by the hepatitis D virus. It spread through infected blood. When someone directly come into contact with infected person’s blood HDV occur.

Hepatitis E

This disease transmitted through water disease. The hepatitis E happens due to poor water sanitation. It occurs in the areas of contaminated water supply.

These all conditions of hepatitis disease cause yellow eyes.

Billary Duct Obstruction

A biliary obstruction refers to the bile duct blockage. The bile duct is a passage which carries bile from the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas to small intestine. The bile is a green or yellowish fluid formed in the liver for fat digestion. It also helps to clear waste from the liver. Here are the causes of bile duct obstruction which can be a reason for yellow eyes.

  • Gallstones (a common cause)
  • Bile ducts inflammation
  • Cysts and trauma
  • Biliary narrowing of the duct
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Parasites
  • Gallbladder or liver surgery injury
  • Tumors in bile ducts which spread in gallbladder, liver
  • Hepatitis infections
  • Liver fibrosis (cirrhosis, or scarring)
  • Liver damage
  • Choledochal cyst (Occur in an infant during birth)


Thalassemia is one of the causes of yellow eyes. It is an inherited blood ailment. In this disorder, the body produces an abnormal form of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein particle in red blood cells which carries oxygen.

The blood disorder causes extreme damage to the red blood cell. It leads to anemia. Anemia is a disorder, in which body doesn’t produce enough healthy red blood cells.

Thalassemia passes from parent to children. If both parents have thalassemia, it may increase the severe health risk. It happens by gene deletion or genetic mutation. This blood disorder leads to jaundice accompanied by yellow eyes.

According to research, this disease found more in people from Africa, Asia, Mediterranean and Middle East countries.

There are three types of Thalassemia, such as

  • Beta Thalassemia
  • Alpha Thalassemia
  • Thalassemia minor

Hemolytic anemia

This disease also called as drug-Induced Immune Hemolytic.

Hemolytic anemia occurs when red blood cell breakdown too quick. Sometimes the medicine you take causes to break red blood cell. The immune system attacks the red blood cell by mistake. This condition increases the bilirubin production.

Everyday 1% red blood cell disposed to get a new cell in the place. When too many red blood broken cells sent to the liver, the build-up substances cause jaundice. This condition causes yellow eyes.

Here is the medicines list which causes your immune system to attack its blood cells.

  • Dapsone
  • Levofloxacin
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Levodopa
  • Methyldopa
  • Ibuprofen
  • Cephalosporin antibiotics
  • Penicillin
  • Nonsteroidal (NSAID)
  • Pyridium – for bladder infections
  • Quinidine

You will know these drugs causing your immune system to react only after taking it. You cannot predict anything before taking these medicines. When you see any reaction, immediately stop the medication and get your doctor advice.

Liver Disease Related to Alcohol

The damage happens to the liver due to prolonged alcohol drinking. Alcohol may cause your liver to swollen and information. The alcohol also causes liver scarring known as cirrhosis, which is the last stage of liver disease.

You may get the following diseases, such as

  • Alcoholic fatty liver
  • Severe alcoholic hepatitis
  • Alcoholic cirrhosis

The liver damage also causes yellow color in the eyes.

Liver Cancer

The liver is a large glandular organ. It manages several critical functions to prevent harmful toxins and substance. There are two types of liver cancer such as primary and secondary.

  • Primary liver cancer occurs in the cell of the liver. The primary liver cancer include four type of cancer such as
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Liver Angiosarcoma
  • Hepatoblastoma
  • Secondary liver cancer begins when other organs cancer spread in the liver. The liver cancer also causes yellow eyes.

Acute Pancreatitis

The pancreas is an organ back of the stomach near the small intestine. It produces hormones and enzymes for food digestion.

Acute pancreatitis occurs direct or indirect. The direct problem affects its duct and tissues. Indirect causes affect from some other infections and disease in the body. Indirect causes include cystic fibrosis, alcohol, mumps and Reye’s syndrome.

These all conditions of acute pancreatitis cause yellow eyes.

G6PD Deficiency

Glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase is a genetic deformity. It causes low G6PD in blood. It is an essential enzyme and protein to regulate several biochemical effects in the body. The G6PD acts to keep the red blood cells healthy to function accurately and live a healthy lifespan. The low amount of G6PD may affect red blood cells and break down prematurely. The early damage of red blood cells is called hemolysis. The hemolysis eventually results in hemolytic anemia.

Hemolytic anemia increase when red blood cells are damaged faster than the body can replace. The accelerated destruction of red blood cells reduces the oxygen flow to the tissues and organs in the body. This condition causes yellow eyes, yellow skin, breath shortness, and fatigue.

The hemolytic anemia may occur after eating legumes, fava beans, other infections in the body or specific medicine consumption, such as

  • Antimalarials – A medication to prevent malaria
  • Sulfonamides – A medication to prevent multiple infections
  • Aspirin – A medication for reducing fever, swelling, and pain
  • NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a severe and deadly flu which spread by mosquitoes. This fever occurs through a transmitted virus of an infected mosquito. This disease does not spread from person to person.

This fever comes with jaundice. The symptom occurs as yellow skin and yellow eyes. Yellow fever mostly happens in the parts of South America and Africa. This fever doesn’t have a cure. It can prevent with yellow fever vaccine.

To recognize yellow fever, you need to check the signs such as

  • Chills
  • A headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain

Weil’s disease

Weil’s disease is severe form and bacterial infection caused by Leptospira bacteria. You may get infected if you come in contact with the blood, urine or tissues of infected rodents or animal such as pigs, dogs, rats, and cattle.

You may also get affected by contaminated water and soil with Leptospira bacteria. The infected person may get mild flue with a headache. If the condition becomes severe, then you may get some unusual reactions from liver, kidney, lungs, heart, and brain with yellow eyes and skin. This reaction is called Weil’s disease. It may also lead to organ failure.

Infectious Mononucleosis

It is a group of symptoms caused by the Epstein Barr virus. Usually, this disease occurs in a teenager but also occur at any age. This virus spread by saliva so that people call it kissing disease.

People who have mononucleosis may get Inflammation of the liver which causes yellow eyes and jaundice.

Symptoms of Yellow Eyes

Yellow eyes are the symptom of many disease and infections mention above. Mainly yellow eyes occur in jaundice. Jaundice also a sign of other conditions such as liver cancer, gallstone, gallbladder surgery infection, acute pancreatitis.

The primary functions happen in the digestive system and circulate in the whole body. When bilirubin and waste materials struck in the liver or bile duct, it will become yellow. It will mix with blood and reach to every organ and muscles of the body.

Therefore the skin and eyes look yellow.

Apart from that, you can notice the following signs.


The yellow eyes require a comprehensive medical examination to determine. To begin the diagnosis, your doctor will take detail history of your current and previous ailments. Then your health care professional does a physical evaluation. This evaluation determines the cause of jaundice and yellow eyes. Your doctor gives particular attention to liver functions and recommends some test such as

  • Blood count
  • Lipase levels
  • Electrolyte panel
  • Hepatitis exposure test
  • Urine analysis test

According to your test result, further diagnosis of underlying disease will recommend in severe cases. In some cases, imaging evaluation is necessary to evaluate the liver, pancreas and gallbladder abnormalities. These imaging evaluations include the following test.

  • Computerized tomography
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Cholescintigraphy scan

Treatment for Yellow eyes

As I have written above yellow eyes are the symptoms of disease in the body.

The treatment for yellow eyes depends on the disease which causes yellow eyes. Once the doctor finds out about the illness, then initiate the procedure. In some cases, patients need to admit in hospital under severe conditions.

For some patient with jaundice and yellow eyes, treatment includes supportive care at home. Mild hepatitis can treat at home under close observation and monitor by the doctor.

  • You need to stop alcohol if you have alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis and acute pancreatitis.
  • Yellow eyes and jaundice caused by toxins, drugs or medication required to stop the intakes. For intentional acetaminophen overdose, need antidote N-acetyl Cysteine for treatment.
  • Many medicines can treat jaundice and yellow eyes condition, such as steroids. It may also treat an autoimmune disorder. A patient with cirrhosis needs lactulose and diuretic treatments.
  • Antibiotics are necessary to heal infections caused by cholangitis which shows a symptom of jaundice.
  • The patients with anemia caused by hemolysis will require blood exchange.
  • The patient with cancer of the liver and gallbladder with the sign of yellow eyes need oncologist consultation. This treatment will depend on the stage and severity of cancer.
  • The patient with gallstone and liver failure need invasive procedures and surgery. Even liver transplant may help the condition.

Home Remedies To Prevent Yellow Eyes

As mentioned above in this article yellow eyes is not an eye problem, But it is related with affecting conditions of the liver, pancreas, intestine, and gallbladder. Consulting your doctor in such situations is required.

Here are some useful home care tips to ease conditions with yellow eyes

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle for proper organs functions.
  • Drink enough water and stay hydrated.
  • Eat a lot of dietary fiber which available in vegetables and fruits such as whole grain, beans, legumes, and beans.
  • Consume lean protein such as nuts, legumes, and fish
  • Skip packed and processed food.
  • Skip trans and saturated fats
  • Skip refined carbohydrates present in sugary baked products
  • Stop alcohol consumption
  • Stop cigarette, tobacco products.
  • Make a habit of regular exercise
  • Avoid using medicine without a prescription.


Yellow eye is a very common disease that may occur among all the ages. This disease is not a dangerous disease, but it might be an indication towards some other underlying disease that can be detrimental to one’s health. It is very important to observe the symptoms of yellow eyes and visiting a doctor. The doctor would diagnose the patient and after determining the reason behind the issue would provide suggest the treatment to follow.

Following your physicians’ advice is the best way of being cured as soon as possible. You must also make sure that you do a regular follow-up with your doctor. If you have been advised a medication, then continue with the medications till the time your condition gets cured completely. You can also ask the doctor to provide you with eye drops to ease out any irritation caused due to this condition in your eyes.

As a preventive step, it is advisable to stop the consumption of alcohol as it damages the liver and one should get hepatitis shots as well. This disease can be a sign towards a damaged kidney; hence, if you feel that you suffer from this disease, then you must go get yourself checked.

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