Kernicterus is actually a brain illness that may cause discomfort. This is a way serious condition that needs to be addressed immediately. This is since it affects the infants. In this article, you will get to know about the different symptoms, causes, as well as the treatments for kernicterus. Feel free to read on!
Kernicterus: What is this condition?
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This is actually a rare disorder that is often characterized by the excessive levels of bilirubin in the blood. This is also popular as hyperbilirubinemia, and it occurs during the infancy. The bilirubin is the orange or yellow bile pigment, which is an offshoot of the natural breakdown of red blood cells’ hemoglobin. Furthermore, the toxic levels of the bilirubin may also accumulate in the brain. This may potentially lead to a number of physical findings and symptoms.
These symptoms may include vomiting, fever, poor eating habits, and lack of energy. Furthermore, the affected infants may likewise experience an absence of various reflexes. The mild to severe spasms of the muscles, including those in the head and heels are bent backward and then the body bows down forward. And/or the uncontrollable involuntary movements of the muscles. In various cases, the infants with the condition may also develop into some life-threatening difficulties.
As stated earlier, it is very common to infants or babies. Mainly, it is caused by the extreme accumulation of the bilirubin in the brain of the child. Even though it is normal for a newborn child to have a high level of bilirubin or what they popularly call newborn jaundice, it is still a condition to focus on. This is since about 60% of babies actually have the illness. This is mainly because their bodies are not able to get rid of the bilirubin, as well as they should yet.
Furthermore, the condition is much rarer. It actually involves a dangerously high bilirubin level. Thus making it an emergency medical condition. Those who have this condition has to be treated in such a way that it will bring down their levels of bilirubin and avert any further damages.
This brain illness occurs when the level of bilirubin in the blood becomes very high that it will cross the blood-brain barrier that will lead to damaging the tissue of the brain. The condition is said to be almost related to severe jaundice.
Below is the list of the common causes of significant jaundice:
- Damaged, underdeveloped, or diseased liver
- Increased the production of bilirubin
- Destruction of the red blood cells that may possibly the effect when the blood type of the mother does not match the blood type of the baby
- Premature births that typically happen before the 37th week of pregnancy or gestation
- Gilbert’s syndrome which is a condition that will lead to high level of bilirubin
- Bile duct blockage or obstruction
Some of the kernicterus cases apparently occur randomly and for no apparent reason. The excess levels of the bilirubin alone are possibly not that sufficient to produce the kernicterus as stated in the medical literature. The Rh disease and/or unknown factors may have been the potential causes of this illness.
Kernicterus: Risk Factors
Even though that the mild jaundice is common to the newborns, there are some known factors that increase the risk of having a more severe jaundice or kernicterus.
The risk factors for this brain illness are the following:
- When the babies are born premature, it will take a longer time to remove effectively the bilirubin.
- Poor feeding prevents babies from making dirty diapers in which bilirubin is removed in the stool.
- Having a family member that has jaundice as an infant that may link to certain disorders that can be inherited like the G6PD deficiency which is an enzyme that is helping the red blood cells to work properly.
- Having a mother that has O or ann Rh-negative blood type because these mothers give birth to babies that have the high level of bilirubin.
This brain illness is developed from the untreated and severe jaundice. It is important to see a doctor immediately if the baby has the symptoms of jaundice.
Symptoms of jaundice include:
- Skin color changes, causing an orange or yellow tint starting at the head
- Having difficulty in sleeping or waking up
- Feeding problems that are either from the bottle or breast
- Fussiness is extreme
- Lesser than the average dirty or wet diapers
Most of the jaundice’s cases do not really require treatment but compilations can occur if it goes too long that can lead to this brain illness.
Symptoms of this brain illness can vary, but may possibly include:
- Lack of energy or drowsiness
- A very high-pitched or uncontrollable crying
- Stiffness or limpness of the whole body
- Trouble feeding
- The reduced tone of the muscle or muscle spasms
There are symptoms of this brain illness that are developed as the child gets older which includes:
- Convulsions or seizures
- Unusual motor movement or development
- Muscle writhing and/or spasms
- Sensory problems
- Inability to gaze upward
Treatments for Kernicterus
The baby will be tested first in order to diagnosed the brain illness. A nurse or a doctor will check the bilirubin levels of the baby by placing on the head of the baby a light meter. The light meter will tell how much bilirubin is in the skin of the baby. And if the level is high, the doctor will order a bilirubin blood test.
Treatments for kernicterus is a must if the level bilirubin is high and the baby has certain risk factors. The treatments for kernicterus include:
- Providing enough breast milk and formula. The baby needs to get enough fluids in order for him to get rid enough of jaundice’s yellow pigment through the stool and urine. The newborns should have, at least in a day, six wet diapers and the stool should change from the color of dark green to yellow if they are getting enough. The babies also seem satisfied when they have eaten enough.
- Phototherapy or light therapy. This therapy involves using a blue light on a skin of the baby either at home or hospital in order to break down the bilirubin. It is actually safe but it may cause temporary side effects like a rash or loose stool.
- Blood transfusion. This will be done if the baby is not responding to the other treatments and it is necessary in order to quickly lower the level of bilirubin. It will only be done if the baby is showing signs of damage in brain what is an effect of too much bilirubin.