The only way to know for sure is to have the doctor order blood testings
There are different blood tests that will give the doctor an idea if it is
a liver, biliary, or blood problem.
They are known as the liver enzymes, liver function, liver viral, and liver
cancer tests. Depending of what levels of these results are out of normal
range...he will know whether it is the liver or biliary area that is involved.
Let me explain more about what causes Jaundice.
When are red blood cells die off, the spleen and liver takes part of these
cells and uses them to make a greenish/brownish substance known as
Bilirubin. The liver then takes this and converts it into a soluble form to
become part of the bile (that the liver makes). Bile/bilirubin flows through
tube like structures (ducts) from the liver to the gallbladder to be stored
and concentrated. When food moves from the stomach into our intestines,
hormones are released that signal the gallbladder to contract, forcing the
bile/bilirubin into the common bile ducts to go to the intestines to help
emulsify the fats we eat, so they can be digested and absorbed.
Bilirubin is a pigment (meaning it coloring colors other things).
Different things can cause a rise in Bilirubin in the blood:
1) The liver cells have become damaged or died off and therefore
isn't able to convert the bilirubin to a soluble form.
2) The bile ducts have become obstructed (stone or growth)/
malformation of the ducts/ or even an infection in the ducts.
3) The bone marrow is producing too many red blood cells or
they are dying off too fast.
4) Some people develop Gilberts disease which can be hereditary
to have abnormally high bilirubin levels.
The bilirubin levels has to reach a certain level in the blood before
patients will notice the yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin
(best seen in outdoor lighting). If it is a biliary problem...then patients
may notice that their stools may be quite a bit lighter in color...or
even so light it appears grayish white. If the level of this in the
blood is high...a person may also notice that the urine is turning
darker in color as the kidneys try to filter this out.
The liver usually causes no symptoms at all; very quiet about any
damage being done to it...that is until the liver cells are unable to
do the functions to keep the body well...then the patient may feel
tired or have flu like symptoms (depending on the cause).
It is best to stop all consumption of alcohol.
Some other things that can cause liver cell damage are:
medication toxification, chemical exposure, viral infections
(like hep A,B,C), parasite infections, mushroom poisoning,
hereditary conditions, metabolic disorders, cardiac/vascular
problems, [biliary problems already mentioned],
cyst/growth/cancer/tumors, fatty liver disease, and many
Simple blood testing will give you and your doctor a look at
what the problem may be. I hope this information has
been of some help to you. Best wishes
caregiver to a liver transplant patient