- A disease characterized by yellowness of the skin and eyes and urine, the discharges from the bowels being of a whitish or clay color. It is caused by the excretion of bile being prevented and retained in the blood, or reabsorbed and diffused through the system. It depends upon various and different internal causes. Pregnant women frequently suffer from it. Any kind of pressure upon the excretory ducts, such as by tumors, etc., or the ducts being filled up with mucus, inspissated bile, or biliary calculus will occasion it. It may also occur as a symptom of chronic or acute inflammation of the liver. Fits of anger, fear or alarm have sometimes been directly followed by an attack of jaundice. And, lastly, certain forms of it are produced occasionally by long-continued hot weather. An attack of the jaundice is usually preceded by symptoms of a disordered state of the liver and digestive organs, loss of appetite, irregular or constipated bowels, colic, nausea, headache, languor, etc. Sooner or later the yellow color begins to appear, usually first in the eye, then in the face, then on the chest, and finally covering the whole body. Sometimes the yellowness is the first symptom; and again, as soon as the yellow stage is reached many of the preliminary symptoms diminish. The shades of yellowness are various - from a light yellow to a deep orange hue, and, in some cases, of a greenish or even a blackish color. In the latter cases it is known as "black jaundice." The greenish or darkish varieties are considered most dangerous.
Some kinds of jaundice are absolutely irremediable, while others will pass off without any treatment, If the patient be young, and the disease complicated with no other malady, it is seldom dangerous; but in old people, where it continues long, returns frequently, or is complicated with dropsy or other diseases, the condition upon which it depends generally leads to a fatal result. In general, the obvious treatment is to promote secretion of the bile and to favor its removal. In ordinary cases, a strong infusion of rhubarb root taken freely, so as to keep up a laxative action, without active purging or vomiting; a cool, light, and laxative diet (such as ripe fruits, mild vegetables, chicken and veal broth, new eggs, stewed prunes, and buttermilk); free ventilation, and hot fomentations twice a day, for half an hour, over the liver, in case of torpor and obstruction; or cold cloths, in case of excessive production of bile, will usually effect a cure. Some prescribed an infusion of thoroughwort, drank freely every day. Cold water should be the only drink; no coffee, tea, etc. As much exercise should be taken as the patient can stand; and if there be any spasmodic pain in the right side, the patient should sit frequently in a warm bath up to his shoulders. Any attack of jaundice may turn out seriously, and therefore as soon as the symptoms develop themselves a physician should be sent for. Persons subject to jaundice ought to take as much active exercise as possible, and should avoid all exhausting food and stimulating drinks.