How is Photo therapy a cure for Neonatal Jaundice?

neonatal jaundice

Neonatal Jaundice, also known as neonatal hyperbilirubinemia is a condition occurring when an infant has high bilirubin in blood.

In this condition the affected new born will have yellowing of skin, from face extending to chest along with yellow colouration of eye.

What causes Neonatal Jaundice?

Jaundice in the new born is mainly caused by increased Bilirubin Production and decreased Bilirubin clearance. Here are the conditions which leads to neonatal Jaundice:

  • When the baby is in womb, bilirubin from the baby’s body is removed by the placenta. But after birth, baby’s liver does this job.

Sometimes it may not be able to do it efficiently because of immature lever. This condition is known as Physiological Jaundice, more than 50% of babies having Neonatal Jaundice is due to this condition.

  • Breast- feeding Jaundice is a condition occurring when the baby does not get enough breast milk. This is more pronounced than physiological Jaundice, though the symptoms remain the same.

Breast-feeding Jaundice may occur in 5% to 10% of new borns.

  • Breast-Milk Jaundice is a condition where in the fed milk contains certain substance that prevents the liver proteins from breaking down bilirubin.

It is a very rare condition, occurring in just 1% to 2% of new born. Breast-feeding Jaundice and Breast- Milk Jaundice are not the same.

  • Blood group incompatibility is also a cause leading to Neonatal Jaundice. In this condition the blood group of mother and baby are different. The antibodies produced by mother may destroy new born’s red blood cells. This results in increased bilirubin in baby’s blood.

What is the treatment for Neonatal Jaundice?

The treatment for Neonatal Jaundice depends on the severity of the condition. Normal Jaundice generally gets cured within one week from birth. But if it still continues then neonatal jaundice can be cured by a “Phototherapy”.

What is Phototherapy?


Phototherapy is a mechanism in which the bilirubin in the blood is eliminated using light.

In phototherapy, light breaks down the bilirubin molecules into two isomeric forms: Structural isomers and Configurational isomers. These isomers are water soluble and thus excreted from the body.

Light in the range 460-490 nm is best suitable for phototherapy. And when this light is absorbed by normal bilirubin i.e. 4Z, 15Z bilirubin, it breaks down into configurational isomer, structural isomer and photo oxidation products.

How is the Phototherapy procedure carried out?

In Phototherapy, the infected baby is kept in an incubator under light in warm condition. The baby will have a special eye shade to protect from light and just a diaper.

The temperature in the incubator is well maintained and except mother and physicians no one else will be allowed to touch the baby.

Phototherapy can be done at home with the help of fiberoptic blanket. This special blanket has tiny bright lights which carry out the function.

Risks encountered due to high bilirubin production

If not treated at the right time, there are chances wherein the baby can develop severe complications such as

  • Chronic Bilirubin encephalopathy
  • Deafness
  • It can also cause Kernicterus, a condition wherein high bilirubin levels causes brain damage.

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