Sunday, October 19, 2008

Yellow Eyes

I always wondered why people who suffered with Sickle Cell Disease had yellow eyes. Not yellow contact lenses, but the white part of their eyes were yellow instead of white. I found the whites of my eyes would turn yellow periodically, and the only time they truly became white was when I was hooked up to an IV of glucose (sugar & water) in the hospital after a Sickle Cell crisis.
(picture is from internet...not me)

My curiosity peaked. I wanted an answer to this question, as well as all those people who asked me “Why are your eyes yellow?” Google came to my rescue as I searched key words “Yellow Eyes”, and here’s what I found.

1. Usually yellow eyes result from the build up of by-products from the increased destruction of red blood cells.

2. Yellow discoloration of the skin, and whites of the eyes are a result of an excess of the pigment Bilirubin in the bloodstream (also known as Jaundice)

3. Bilirubin is the yellow breakdown product of normal hemoglobin.

4. Heme is formed from hemoglobin, a principal component of red blood cells.

5. Bilirubin is excreted in bile, and if its levels are elevated, it is responsible for the yellow color of bruises and the yellow discoloration in jaundice.

People with Sickle Cell have an increased number of “damaged/dead” red blood cells. These red blood cells contain hemoglobin that’s damaged/dead too. This damaged/dead hemoglogin contains Bilirubin which is the breakdown product of hemoglobin. A larger than normal amount of Bilirubin in the body, accumulates in the blood causing jaundice. (yellow skin and eyes, and darker than normal urine.)

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