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  • Jaundice

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    Jaundice, also known as icterus, is a yellowish or greenish pigmentation of the skin and whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels. It is commonly associated with itchiness. The feces may be pale and the urine dark. Jaundice in babies occurs in over half in the first week following birth and in most is not a problem. If bilirubin levels in babies are very high for too long, a type of brain damage, known as kernicterus, may occur. Causes of jaundice vary from non-serious to potentially fatal. Levels of bilirubin in blood are normally below 1.0 mg/dL (17 µmol/L) and levels over 2–3 mg/dL (34-51 µmol/L) typically results in jaundice. High bilirubin is divided into two types: unconjugated (indirect) and conjugated (direct). Conjugated bilirubin can be confirmed by finding bilirubin in the urine. Other conditions that can cause yellowish skin but are not jaundice include carotenemia from eating large amounts of certain foods and medications like rifampin. High unconjugated bilirubin may be due to excess red blood cell breakdown, large bruises, genetic conditions such as Gilbert's syndrome, not eating for a prolonged period of time, newborn jaundice, or thyroid problems. High conjugated bilirubin may be due to liver diseases such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, infections, medications, or blockage of the bile duct. In the developed world, the cause is more often blockage of the bile duct or medications while in the developing world, it is more often infections such as viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis, or malaria. Blockage of the bile duct may occur due to gallstones, cancer, or pancreatitis. Medical imaging such as ultrasound is useful for detecting bile duct blockage. Treatment of jaundice is typically determined by the underlying cause. If a bile duct blockage is present, surgery is typically required; otherwise, management is medical. Medical management may involve treating infectious causes and stopping medication that could be contributing. Among newborns, depending on age and prematurity, a bilirubin greater than 4–21 mg/dL (68-360 µmol/L) may be treated with phototherapy or exchanged transfusion. The itchiness may be helped by draining the gallbladder or ursodeoxycholic acid. The word jaundice is from the French jaunisse, meaning "yellow disease".

  • Kidney stone disease

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    Kidney stone disease, also known as urolithiasis, is when a solid piece of material (kidney stone) occurs in the urinary tract. Kidney stones typically form in the kidney and leave the body in the urine stream. A small stone may pass without causing symptoms. If a stone grows to more than it can cause blockage of the ureter resulting in severe pain in the lower back or abdomen. A stone may also result in blood in the urine, vomiting, or painful urination. About half of people will have another stone within ten years. Most stones form due to a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Risk factors include high urine calcium levels, obesity, certain foods, some medications, calcium supplements, hyperparathyroidism, gout and not drinking enough fluids. Stones form in the kidney when minerals in urine are at high concentration. The diagnosis is usually based on symptoms, urine testing, and medical imaging. Blood tests may also be useful. Stones are typically classified by their location: nephrolithiasis (in the kidney), ureterolithiasis (in the ureter), cystolithiasis (in the bladder), or by what they are made of (calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite, cystine). In those who have had stones, prevention is by drinking fluids such that more than two liters of urine are produced per day. If this is not effective enough, thiazide diuretic, citrate, or allopurinol may be taken. It is recommended that soft drinks containing phosphoric acid (typically colas) be avoided. When a stone causes no symptoms, no treatment is needed. Otherwise pain control is usually the first measure, using medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids. Larger stones may be helped to pass with the medication tamsulosin or may require procedures such as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, ureteroscopy, or percutaneous nephrolithotomy. Between 1% and 15% of people globally are affected by kidney stones at some point in their lives. In 2015, 22.1 million cases occurred, resulting in about 16,100 deaths. They have become more common in the Western world since the 1970s. Generally, more men are affected than women. Kidney stones have affected humans throughout history with descriptions of surgery to remove them dating from as early as 600 BC.

  • Porphyria

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    Porphyria is a group of diseases in which substances called porphyrins build up, negatively affecting the skin or nervous system. The types that affect the nervous system are also known as acute porphyria, as symptoms are rapid in onset and last a short time. Symptoms of an attack include abdominal pain, chest pain, vomiting, confusion, constipation, fever, high blood pressure, and high heart rate. The attacks usually last for days to weeks. Complications may include paralysis, low blood sodium levels, and seizures. Attacks may be triggered by alcohol, smoking, hormonal changes, fasting, stress, or certain medications. If the skin is affected, blisters or itching may occur with sunlight exposure. Most types of porphyria are inherited from a person's parents and are due to a mutation in one of the genes that make heme. They may be inherited in an autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive, or X-linked dominant manner. One type, porphyria cutanea tarda, may also be due to increased iron in the liver, hepatitis C, alcohol, or HIV/AIDS. The underlying mechanism results in a decrease in the amount of heme produced and a build-up of substances involved in making heme. Porphyrias may also be classified by whether the liver or the bone marrow is affected. Diagnosis is typically by blood, urine, and stool tests. Genetic testing may be done to determine the specific mutation. Treatment depends on the type of porphyria and a person's symptoms. The treatment of porphyria of the skin generally involves the avoidance of sunlight. The treatment for acute porphyria may involve giving intravenous heme or a glucose solution. Rarely a liver transplant may be carried out. The frequency of porphyria is unclear. It is estimated that it affects 1 to 100 per 50,000 people. Rates vary around the world. Porphyria cutanea tarda is believed to be the most common type. The disease was described at least as early as 370 BC by Hippocrates. The underlying mechanism was first described by Felix Hoppe-Seyler in 1871. The name porphyria is from the Greek πορφύρα, porphyra, meaning "purple", a reference to the color of the urine that may occur during an attack.

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