What Are the Causes of Yellow Eyes?

Yellow Eyes
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You might have heard this popular saying, “the eyes are windows of the soul”. This is true but not for the soul only, but a window or barometer of all parts of your body.

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There are specialists well trained in eye (Iris) diagnosis and we call them iridologists. From looking at your eyes, they can see the state and health of your vital organs and know how healthy you are.

If the eyes don’t pass information about what’s going on inside the body, all these would not be possible. There are many signs the eyes give when things are going wrong in the body and one of them is yellow eyes.

This post will expose you to what yellow eyes means, the possible causes, prevention, and even effective natural treatments.

Causes of Yellow Eyes

There are many reasons why the white of the eyes turn yellow. The most common ones are:

1. Jaundice

This condition occurs when hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying compound in the blood) breaks down into bilirubin and the body cannot effectively clear the bilirubin.

The compound bilirubin is supposed to move to the bile ducts from the liver. From the bile duct, it moves to your intestines where it is passed out in your poop.

If this process is obstructed, bilirubin will build up in your skin and this will make your skin and eyes yellow. Healthy sclera should look white and not yellow.

When your sclera is yellow, it shows that there is an underlying health condition which could be a problem of the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. Yellow eyes are a sign of organ malfunction.

One of the major causes of yellow eyes is liver problems. Your liver is a very important organ in your body with over 500 functions. Liver problems can make the sclera of the eyes yellow.

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Common liver problems that can cause yellowing of the eyes are:

Liver cirrhosis (Scarring)

This is a leading cause of liver malfunctions and it can be caused by many factors. Common ones are:

  • Excessive intake of alcohol
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Liver cancer
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Liver infection
  • Hepatitis A, D, and E but they are less common causes of jaundice.

Genetic conditions

There are some inherited conditions that can cause cirrhosis of the liver and some of them are:

  • Primary Hemochromatosis: Characterized by excess iron in the liver.
  • Wilson’s disease: Happens when excess copper lodge in the liver
  • Porphyrias: These are rare blood disorders that cause the accumulation of porphyrins. This compound is used to make red blood cells but it causes problems when it builds up in the body.

Gallbladder problems

The compound bile that helps in the breakdown and digestion of fat is produced in the liver but stored in the gallbladder. The gallbladder releases this bile for the digestion of fat.

It is connected to your liver through the bile ducts. Jaundice occurs of these bile ducts are blocked. Factors that can block the bile ducts are:

Signs that the gallbladder/bile ducts are blocked are:

Conditions that affect the pancreas can also cause yellow eyes. The pancreas is an organ responsible for producing enzymes and hormones.

Your pancreas duct and bile duct from your gallbladder join together to empty their content into your small intestines. If your pancreatic duct is inflamed, obstructed, or infected, bile will not drain properly.

When this happens, it can cause jaundice. Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) also causes pains and discoloration of the skin.

Pancreatic cancer is also another condition that can cause yellowing of the sclera (Jaundice).

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3. Blood disorders

Insufficient breakdown of red blood cells or less secretion of bilirubin can make your eyes yellow. This is the reason why medical conditions that affect how your red blood cells are produced and how long they live can cause yellowing of the eyes.

Factors that increase one’s risks of blood disorders are:

  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Incompatibility reaction after a blood transfusion
  • Drug-induced immune hemolytic anemia

The sclera is covered with a thin and clear tissue called Conjunctiva. This tissue lines the inside of your eyelids. Your eyelids contain a network of thin blood vessels.

These blood vessels can break easily or burst. When this happens, they settle between the sclera and conjunctiva and color the eyes. Of the leak is a small one, a part of your eyes will be discolored.

However, if it is a large leak, the entire part of the eyes/eye will appear bright red. On rare occasions, it causes pains and vision problems. It also causes a minor itching of the eyes.

Some causes of this condition are:

  • Eye infections
  • Trauma
  • Hard cough
  • Constipation
  • Hard sneeze
  • Forcefully rubbing your eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Lifting heavy objects

In some cases, Subconjunctival hemorrhage can be a warning sign of bleeding or blood disorders. It can also be a sign of underlying hypertension or diabetes.

A doctor can examine your eyes and rule out eye disorders or identify a cause. This will not stain your eyes permanently as your body will slowly re-absorb this.

Most hemorrhage resolve on their own within 7 days. Large ones can take up to 2 to 3 weeks to go away. The red color will turn to a yellow-orange color before going pink then white again.

5. Hemolytic Anemia

This happens when your body breaks down red blood cells too quickly. This causes anemia and makes the white of the eyes appear yellow. The level of bilirubin also increases.

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6. Hyperbilirubinemia

This is an increased level of bilirubin in the body and it is produced when the body breaks down red blood cells. It is secreted in the bile and released into the small intestine to digest fats.

Then it is finally released through stools. When excess red blood cells are broken down, the levels of bilirubin in the blood quickly shoot up and this can cause jaundice.

Liver disease can also increase the levels of bilirubin in the blood.

7. Alcoholism

Excessive intake of alcohol can damage your liver and increases your risks of developing fatty or alcoholic liver disease. Liver diseases are the leading causes of jaundice.

The first step in treating this condition is to quit drinking.

8. Leptospirosis

This is an infection caused by the bacterium Leptospira genus. People with this infection develop yellow eyes. It is transmitted when you come in contact with water contaminated with animal urine and it is also common in warmer climates.

Along with yellow eyes, people with leptospirosis also develop a sore throat, cough, stomach pain, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle pains. In some cases, infected individuals develop a swollen spleen or liver.

9. Certain medications

Some drugs/medications cause yellow eyes as side effects. Examples are:

When malaria parasites enter your body, they break or damage your red blood cells and your spleen or liver get to filter these out. Excess red blood cell breakdown can cause jaundice and anemia.

11. Cancer

Cancer can cause yellowing of the eyes, especially these types of cancers.

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  • Liver cancer: Due to the inability of the bile duct or bile cells to perform its functions, the handling of bilirubin is affected. It builds up in the bloodstream and causes jaundice.
  • Gallbladder cancer: This is a rare form of cancer and it doesn’t cause any symptoms until the cancer cells spread or the tumor grows large. When the tumor grows big, it blocks the bile ducts and causes jaundice.
  • Pancreatic cancer: Tumors in the pancreas press on the bile ducts and if bile can’t drain properly, bilirubin builds up and jaundice occurs.

Also, cancer can spread to the liver and also cause jaundice.

12. Yellow fever

Yellow fever is a severe flu-like disease spread by mosquitoes and it causes high fever and jaundice. Apart from the yellowing of the eyes, yellow fever also causes yellow skin.

The organs most affected by yellow fever are the kidneys and the liver. Treatment of this condition reverses yellow eyes.

Other Symptoms Accompanying Yellow Eyes

Yellow eyes don’t just happen alone. It comes with other symptoms due to buildup of bilirubin like:

Effective Home Remedies For Yellow Eyes  

The first thing to do when you notice yellow eyes is to upgrade your diet. Make it richer in nutrients so that your body can overcome this condition. You should take out dietary hazards and include lots of potent foods in your daily meals.

Dietary hazards you should eliminate from your diet are alcohol, fried foods, refined sugar, processed foods, salty foods, excess animal protein, synthetic seasonings, and unnatural chemicals and food additives.

Potent healing foods you should include in your diet are:  

Barley water

Barley has wonderful diuretic properties that help flush out toxins and excess bilirubin from the body through urine. It’s highly effective for yellow eyes.

Add a tablespoon of roasted barley seed powder to a glass of warm water, mix well using a spoon, and drink. You can add honey if you please, but ensure you drink it immediately, don’t keep it for later.

People with a gluten allergy should avoid this remedy as barley contains gluten.

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Lemon balm tea

Lemon balm is different from lemon, it is only associated with lemon because of its mild lemon aroma. Its healing properties benefit the liver immensely.

It increases all your internal organs and increases the production of bile in the body. This herb boosts liver functions and also and reduces the concentration/circulation of bilirubin in the bloodstream.

It also reverses eye discoloration. Make lemon balm tea using either fresh or dried organic leaves of lemon balm. Take this tea three times daily to reverse yellow eyes and support your liver health.

Tomatoes

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Raw tomatoes and tomato juice are some of the most effective home remedies for yellow eyes. It is rich in powerful antioxidants, phytochemicals, and even vitamin C which prevent and reverse yellow eyes.

Juice 2-3 ripe tomatoes, add a pinch of black pepper. You can also add a pinch of sea salt or rock salt if you want. Take this drink on an empty stomach every morning for the best and fastest result.

Then you can eat after 45 minutes to 1 hour. Make sure you use only organic tomatoes.

Milk thistle

Milk Thistle
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This herb is well known for its liver-detoxing properties and medicinal properties. It promotes optimal functions of the liver. It boosts the formation of enzymes and increases bile production.

Milk thistle reverses liver damage caused by certain medications. It also gets rid of yellow eyes. Make milk thistle tea by blending milk thistle seeds, fennel seeds, and peppermint seeds together.

This will boost the benefits of milk thistle. Grind these seeds until you get a coarse mixture, pour in a cup. Add hot water, cover, and allow to steep for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture and drink. Do this once daily to get rid of yellow eyes.

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Garlic

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This popular culinary herb has many wonderful health benefits. Allicin, a powerful phytochemical present in is a strong antioxidant that cleanses the liver. It hastens recovery from jaundice.

Take 3 raw garlic cloves daily. You can also add garlic to your meals when preparing.

Dandelion

Dandelion
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This popular weed with potent medicinal properties boosts liver health and functions. It detoxes excess bilirubin from the body, thereby preventing it from accumulating in the body and it also treats yellow eyes.

This is one of the best herbs to treat and prevent liver problems. Take three cups of dandelion tea daily. If you don’t have access to fresh dandelion, you can get dandelion tea bags from any good health store.

Don’t take this tea if you are on any medication.  

Basil

This powerful herb has strong liver-protective properties. It protects the liver from damage and infections and boosts the treatment of jaundice.

Chew 10-12 leaves or basil or juice/blend them and drink. Do this three times daily. This drink is not advisable for pregnant women.

Control your emotions

Negative emotions like anger and fear put the liver under immense pressure and that can affect its functions. This can lead to excess production of bile and yellow eyes.

Look for peaceful ways to deal with emotional problems and learn to let go of things that you cannot control. Look for ways to be in peace always even if it includes leaving a bad job or relationship.

Don’t bottle up emotions. Deal with issues and look for ways to uplift your spirit.

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Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency leads to Jaundice in both children and adults. Increase your levels of vitamin D and your yellow eyes will go away. One effective way to increase your levels of Vitamin D is to expose yourself to moderate sunlight.

Wild-caught fish and organic eggs are rich in vitamin D also. There are also wonderful vitamin D supplements, but you have to meet a naturopath to prescribe a good one for you.

Almonds

This superfood purifies your blood and treats liver infections. It is rich in vital nutrients like fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium that the liver needs to function well.

Take almonds daily.

Amla

This herb is rich in vitamin C and other essential nutrients the body needs to prevent and reverse diseases. There are also nutrients in amla that enhance the health of the liver.

Boil 2-3 amla in a pan, medium-sized is preferable. Mix the amla pulp with the remaining water and leave this mixture to cool. Add honey or molasses and consume. Once-daily is okay.

Please don’t take amla in large quantities because it can cause constipation and even hyperacidity.

Licorice

This is a powerful detoxifier and it helps your liver removes harmful wastes. It is one of the best home remedies for jaundice. Take licorice tea daily, add lemon juice for taste.

Oregano tea

This is one of the potent herbal teas for yellow eyes. It also treats liver problems. You can get oregano leaves from reputable health stores. Take a freshly brewed cup three times daily.

Carrots

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This is a super liver food and it clears and repairs damages in the liver. It is rich in beta-carotene which strengthens the immune system and clears liver infections.

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Eat many carrots daily or drink fresh carrot juices.

Rosemary essential oil

This powerful oil has detoxifying and liver-protective properties. It is one of the top home remedies to get rid of yellow eyes. Add 12 drops of this essential oil to 30 ml of coconut oil.

Mix thoroughly and apply this mixture to your abdomen and massage gently. Don’t wash it off until the body absorbs all of it. Do this once daily, especially at night when going to bed.

Turmeric

Curcumin, a powerful antioxidant in turmeric detoxifies the liver and protects it against alcohol and other harmful toxins. Turmeric is a good spice and can be added to all your meals.

You can also take turmeric tea three times daily until you get your result.

Radish leaves

Including this in your daily diet will help your liver recover fast from disease or infection. It also gets rid of yellow eyes. You can also juice it to make sure all the powerful components are extracted and none is destroyed by heat.

This juice can be taken many times daily until you recover.

Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon oil prevents liver problems and injuries and we all know that prevention is better than cure. But it still works if you already have liver problems and jaundice.

It is a storehouse of powerful antioxidants that treat jaundice and liver problems. It is a common home remedy for yellow eyes. Add 12 drops of lemon oil to 30 ml of coconut oil and mix thoroughly.

Apply this oil blend to your abdomen and massage properly. Leave it until all the oil has been absorbed. Make sure you use 100% pure essential oil.

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Lemon juice is also highly effective in treating yellow eyes. Take lemon juice or water many times daily.

Sugarcane

Sugarcane is a wonderful liver tonic. Taking it on a daily basis can reverse yellow eyes and make your eyes white again. It boosts liver functions and even has a mild diuretic property that flushes away toxins and excess bilirubin in the bloodstream.

When to Seek Help For Yellow Eyes/Jaundice

If you have any of the following symptoms along with yellow eyes, you should see a naturopath immediately.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nose bleed
  • Feeling sick
  • Itchy skin
  • Fever
  • Feeling exhausted always
  • Darkening of skin color and other changes
  • Losing weight for no reason
  • Muscle pain and abnormal joint pain
  • Abdominal swelling or swelling of the legs
  • Pale stools
  • Dark urine

Can Excess Vitamin A Cause Yellow Eyes?

There are lots of misconceptions out there about the yellowing of the eyes and one of these is that certain foods, especially those rich in vitamin A triggers the yellowing of the eyes.

Well, this is not true as they are no studies verifying some of these claims. Eating excess foods that are high in vitamin A can cause yellowing of the skin, not the eyes. Examples of these foods are carrots, melons, and squash.

These foods can affect the color of the skin when taken in excess but they can’t change the color of the eyes. Yellow eyes only occur when there is excess bilirubin in the bloodstream.

Most times, jaundice is an indication of an underlying health problem. But it could also be caused by a temporal buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream.

It can also be caused by nutritional deficiencies like vitamin B12 deficiency. A lack of Vitamin B12 in the body causes changes in the production of red blood cells and this can lead to the yellowing of the eyes.

Once the underlying issue is treated, the yellow eyes go away.

Yellow Eyes in Infants And How To Handle It

A lot of newborns have jaundice (neonatal jaundice) due to a minor and temporal buildup of bilirubin. Along with yellow eyes, you may also notice sleepiness, poor feeding, and yellow skin.

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This has to be handled medically because high levels of bilirubin can cause hearing loss, brain damage, and even seizures. Babies eliminate excess bilirubin through their poop.

Breastfed your baby well, at least 8 times a day because breast milk has a mild laxative effect. Special lights can also be used to help your baby’s body eliminate extra bilirubin.

Sources;

  1. Jaundice NCBI, Healthline
  2. Natural Remedies NCBI
Yellow Eyes
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Faith Ebiojo David
I am a Biochemist and Naturopath, I love writing and educating people on health and wellness matters.
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