Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia refers to elevations in serum bilirubin levels in the newborn. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown pigmented substance that is abundant in bile. Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is a very common condition that is seen in most pediatrics practices, however, the pediatrician needs to determine if it is related to an underlying cause or simply a mild benign finding.
Most babies who are born with neonatal hyperbilirubinemia do not have any underlying conditions such as liver disease. Risk factors for neonatal hyperbilirubinemia include prematurity, gestational diabetes, maternal use of certain medications, and having a sibling with the condition. Here are some symptoms of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia and some effective treatment options.
Signs And Symptoms
The most common symptom of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is jaundice, which refers to yellowing of the skin and sclera of both eyes. When pediatricians examine newborns, they gently press the baby's nose and forehead to evaluate the skin tone.
If the newborn's skin appears yellow in the areas that were pressed, neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is likely. In addition to yellowing of the skin and sclerae, neonatal jaundice may cause excessive bruising, dark-colored and concentrated urine, and yellow or clay-colored stools. If bilirubin levels become extremely elevated, the baby may become lethargic and listless, refuse feedings, and stop gaining weight.
Treatments For Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia
Treatment options will depend on the cause of your newborn's hyperbilirubinemia. If it is related to an underlying illness such as liver disease, the pediatrician may refer the baby to a pediatric gastroenterologist for further evaluation and testing. However, the most common treatment is phototherapy.
This treatment option refers to placing the newborn under a special lamp to help the bilirubin break down so that it effectively gets eliminated through the baby's stool and urine. During phototherapy treatment, the baby only wears a diaper so that as much of the jaundiced skin as possible is exposed to the light source.
The baby will also wear protective eye pads on their eyes to protect them from the bright light. The pediatrics healthcare provider may also recommend more frequent feedings to help increase stool production which will further help excrete excess bilirubin from the newborn's system.
If your baby develops jaundice after bringing them home from the hospital, make an appointment with the pediatrician. Sometimes, neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is not apparent right after the baby is born in the hospital, and because of this, checking the newborn's skin when they come home from the hospital is important. When neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is diagnosed and treated quickly, your baby may be less likely to develop critically high bilirubin levels.
For more information, contact pediatricians near you.
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