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Jaundice (also known as icterus) is the yellow discolouration of the skin. For this reason it is most easily identified in individuals with pale-coloured skin and harder to detect in individuals with darker-pigmented skin. However, it can also be recognised by yellowing of the sclerae distinguishing it from carotenaemia where this does not occur. Although not a disease in itself, jaundice is normally an indication of a more serious underlying disorder such as liver disease.[1]

Discolouration of the skin is caused by an accumulation of bilirubin in body tissue formed from the break down of red blood cells. In the liver bilirubin combines with sugars producing a water-soluble form called conjugated-bilirubin. Individuals with sickle-cell anaemia suffer from increased lysis of red blood cells, causing the rate of production of unconjugated bilirubin to be higher than that which can be converted to conjugated bilirubin eventually leading to jaundice.[2]

Heme is a prosthetic group most commonly known for forming haemoglobin and myoglobin as well as many other enzymes in the body. Heme can undergo porphyrin metabolism to from other useful products.


  1. Jaundice- Dr Colin Tidy (2011) http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Jaundice.htm (last accessed 26/11/14)
  2. Harvey R. and Ferrier D. (2011) Biochemistry 5th ed.
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