Updated on  September 6, 2022
2 min read

Yellow Eye Color

6 sources cited
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Overview: Yellow Eyes & What They Look Like

People aren’t born with yellow eyes. Instead, various conditions can cause them, some of which can be serious.

Eyes become yellow when the sclera, the white part of your eyes, has too much of a yellow substance called bilirubin. This is a chemical byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells.

If your body cannot flush it from your system fast enough, you can acquire a yellow tone to your skin and eyes. This condition is known as jaundice.

Here are some photos of what yellow eyes might look like:

jaundice eyes

7 Possible Causes of Yellow Eyes

Possible causes of jaundice include:

1. Hepatitis

Hepatitis occurs when your liver gets inflamed. This can happen due to viral infection as well as chronic drinking. Your liver is less able to filter bilirubin out of your blood, leading to jaundice. 

Hepatitis is potentially serious, especially Hepatitis A. 

2. Anemia

Anemia occurs when your red blood cell count gets too low. This can cause a condition called hemolysis, which can make your eyes turn yellow.

3. Blocked Bile Ducts

There is a small organ under your liver called your gallbladder. Within your gallbladder are your bile ducts. They receive fluid from your liver and transport it to the small intestine. 

But sometimes, they can get blocked. This usually happens due to the formation of gallstones, hard, small pebbles which can get lodged in your bile ducts.

Some rare diseases can also block bile ducts (usually cancers).

4. Chronic Alcohol Use

Chronic drinking can cause cirrhosis, or liver disease. It can also cause hepatitis.

5. Certain Medications

Certain medications have been linked to jaundice. These include:

  • Penicillin
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Steroids
  • Acetaminophen
  • Chlorpromazine

6. Sarcoidosis

This is an autoimmune disorder where inflammatory cells gather in your body’s tissues. 

One side effect of this is a yellowing of the eyes called ocular sarcoidosis. It can be caused by genes, as well as bacteria, viruses, or chemicals.

7. Malaria

Malaria is a dangerous infection transmitted by mosquitoes. It can cause your blood vessels to burst and get filtered out of your liver. Anemia and jaundice can result.

Can Yellow Eyes Be Normal?

No. Yellow eyes are a sign something is wrong. Some of the conditions that cause yellow eyes are quite serious.

When to See a Doctor for Yellow Eyes

You should immediately see your doctor if you find your eyes are yellow. While some of the conditions causing jaundice are not a big deal, some, such as Hepatitis A, are life-threatening. 

Cirrhosis of the liver is also quite serious. 

Can You Fix Yellow Eyes With Treatment?

Jaundice is usually temporary. Once the underlying condition is addressed, it goes away. Proper depends on the underlying condition. 

Sometimes, fixing it could be as simple as changes to your diet. Other causes, such as gallstones, may require surgery.

You should consult your doctor to learn what treatment options are best for you.

Updated on  September 6, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on  September 6, 2022
  1. Cleveland Clinic. “Adult Jaundice.my.clevelandclinic.org, 2018.

  2. Fargo, M. V., Grogan, S. P., & Saguil, A. “Evaluation of jaundice in adults.American Family Physician, 95 , 164–168.

  3. National Health Service. “Jaundice.www.nhs.uk, 2021.

  4. Sharma, Karuna. “4 Ways to Reduce the Yellowing of the Eyes.www.alderwoodoptical.com/.

  5. Tholey, Danielle. “Jaundice in Adults.www.merckmanuals.com, 2021.

  6. Yeh, Steven. “Yellow Eyes.www.buoyhealth.com, 2021.

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