How to Treat Kernicterus?

  • December 04, 2023
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How to Treat Kernicterus?

What is Kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a rare but serious neurological condition primarily seen in newborns, resulting from elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin, a yellow pigment formed during the breakdown of red blood cells, accumulates when the liver struggles to eliminate it efficiently, particularly in cases of severe jaundice. This accumulation can lead to jaundice, characterized by a yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes.

The progression of kernicterus involves stages of symptoms, with jaundice being an early and noticeable sign. Newborns may display irritability, poor feeding, and seizures as the condition advances. Left untreated, complications such as hearing loss and permanent brain damage may occur. Healthcare professionals term this condition "bilirubin encephalopathy," emphasizing the neurological impact of elevated bilirubin levels on the infant's brain. Early detection and intervention are crucial in preventing severe consequences, highlighting the importance of parents promptly seeking medical attention if they observe any changes in their newborn's behavior or appearance.

Why does Kernicterus Occur?

The primary trigger for kernicterus is severe jaundice. Jaundice is characterized by the yellowing of the skin and eyes due to heightened bilirubin levels. In newborns, the underdeveloped liver may struggle to process bilirubin effectively, resulting in its buildup in the bloodstream. If untreated, excessively high levels of bilirubin can traverse the blood-brain barrier, causing damage to brain cells and giving rise to kernicterus.