Treating jaundice 

There are many possible treatments for jaundice, depending on the underlying cause.

A general overview of the recommended treatment plans for the main types of jaundice is outlined below, including links to more detailed information.

Pre-hepatic jaundice

In treating pre-hepatic jaundice, the objective is to prevent the rapid breakdown of red blood cells that's causing bilirubin levels to build up in the blood.

In cases where pre-hepatic jaundice has been caused by an infection, such as malaria, medication to treat the underlying infection is usually recommended. For genetic blood disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemiablood transfusions may be required to replace the red blood cells.

Gilbert's syndrome doesn't usually require treatment because the jaundice associated with it isn't particularly serious and doesn't pose a serious threat to health. 

Intra-hepatic jaundice

In cases of intra-hepatic jaundice, little can be done to repair any liver damage, although the liver can often repair itself over time. The aim of treatment is to prevent further liver damage.

For liver damage caused by infection, such as viral hepatitis or glandular fever, anti-viral medications may be used to help prevent further damage.

If the damage is caused by alcohol or exposure to harmful substances, reducing alcohol consumption or avoiding further exposure to the substance is recommended.

In severe cases of liver disease, a liver transplant is another possible option. However, only a small number of people are suitable candidates for a transplant and the availability of donated livers is limited.

See the following topics for more information:

Post-hepatic jaundice

In most cases of post-hepatic jaundice, surgery to unblock the bile duct system is recommended.

During surgery, it may also be necessary to remove:

  • the gallbladder
  • a section of the bile duct system
  • a section of the pancreas to prevent further blockages occurring

See the following topics for more information:

Newborn jaundice

Newborn babies are often born with jaundice. At a very young age, the various systems that are used to remove bilirubin from the body aren't fully developed.

Newborn jaundice isn't usually a cause for concern and often resolves within two weeks without treatment.

Read more about newborn jaundice.

Page last reviewed: 09/02/2015

Next review due: 09/02/2017