The eyes can turn yellow as a result of jaundice and other conditions. Jaundice describes a yellowish tint to the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Excessively high levels of bilirubin in the blood cause jaundice. Bilirubin is a yellow waste substance found in bile, the liquid the liver makes to help break down fats.
Too much bilirubin in the bloodstream can cause leaks into surrounding tissues, such as the skin and eyes. This causes them to turn yellow.
Jaundice has different causes in adults, children, and newborn infants.
Anatomy of the eye:
Jaundice mainly affects the front of the eye, as this is where the yellow pigment would be visible.
It is important to understand the anatomy of the front of the eye to understand how jaundice affects the eye.
The front part of the eye is made of several different parts:
Eyelid and lashes: The upper and lower lids and lashes offer eyes protection from dirt and dust. They are also used to blink so that the eyes stay moist. Jaundice can cause both the outer eyelids and the underside of the eyelid to have a yellow tint that is visible on lifting the eyelid.
Pupil: The pupil is the dark center of each eye that controls the amount of light that enters. Jaundice does not normally discolor the pupils.
Iris: The iris is the colored part of the eye immediately surrounding the pupils. It contains muscles that contract the pupils. Yellowing may be seen in the iris if a person has jaundice.
Sclera: These are the whites of the eye. The sclera surrounds the iris and protects the fragile structures on the inside of the eye. Jaundice is often first noticed because the sclera becomes yellow.
If you have yellow eyes as an older child or adult, visit a doctor.