The first stage of jaundice is the prodromal stage, an increase of bile, a yellowish pigment. When bile builds up in the skin, the result is a yellow tone. The condition is also known as yellow skin disease and is often caused by improper functioning of the liver. The symptoms of this first stage last about two weeks and consist of constipation, nausea, discoloration of skin and eyes, sudden weight loss, light sensitivity, fever and dark colored urine. Red colored stools are common, as well as weakness and fatigue. The first stage is extremely contagious if the condition is caused by an infection, so people visiting or caring for the patient need to wash their hands frequently and practice good hygiene at all times.
The second stage of jaundice is the clinical or icteric. In this stage the patient experiences abdominal swelling and discomfort along with indigestion. Also seen at this point are rashes like hives, which can cause severe itching--itching is common in jaundice anyway, caused by bile in the skin. This second stage lasts about five days, and the patient dealing with infection is beyond the contagious point by this time. But care should still be taken with hygiene when dealing with a patient in second stage jaundice.
The third stage is the posticteral or recovery period. This can last anywhere from two to 12 weeks depending on the severity of the condition. This stage involves a gradual reduction of the symptoms already present. The abdominal swelling goes down and the patient is less constipated and begins feeling much better. The liver begins to clear out the excessive bile from the system, including that present in the skin, reducing the yellow tones of the skin and eyes and also reducing the itching. Bowel movements take on a more normal appearance and the urine clears again.
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