Your skin often represents your inner health and wellbeing. For example, when we are stressed, we might break out; when we have a hormonal imbalance, we become more prone to acne formation; when we are dehydrated, the skin lacks water and may become dull.
That being said, yellow skin (also called jaundice) can be a concerning sign of an underlying health condition in adults. But in any case, it’s a symptom and not a health issue itself. Yet, it can come with other symptoms like flu, change in urine color, abdominal pain, fatigue, change in the color of the sclera (the white of the eye), and others. 
However, yellow skin can be triggered by many distinct factors, both chronic and temporary, which have one common thing. All of the underlying health conditions cause the release of yellow pigment in the blood, called “bilirubin.” This pigment builds up when the liver is unable to break down red blood cells efficiently. 
This article will reveal some of the most common causes of jaundice in adults.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
Can liver disease cause jaundice?
Jaundice is most common to occur when an individual experiences liver issues (like hepatitis, liver failure, cancer) or has suffered a liver injury. In that case, the organ may not function properly, and the bilirubin pigment can quickly build up in the blood, causing yellow coloration of the skin. 
Can drinking too much alcohol make your skin yellow?
Drinking alcohol in controlled/moderate amounts shouldn’t necessarily harm your health.  However, long term regular consumption or overconsumption of alcoholic beverages may negatively affect your liver health, causing significant damage. 
According to the US Addiction Centre, alcohol may affect your liver differently, as some of the most common diseases include alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver, cirrhosis, and cancer. 
As our body usually recognizes alcohol as a toxin, the liver works hard to neutralize its negative effect and protect the other organs and the blood. But when the liver is “overwhelmed” by large quantities of alcohol for a long time, it might start suffering. As a result, the liver may experience damage, fail to function properly, and fail to metabolize the bilirubin effectively. In that case, the pigment may go in the blood, causing coloration of the skin and other tissues. 
Can pancreatic cancer cause jaundice?
While the liver produces bile to break down fats and support digestion, the pancreas produces enzymes to metabolize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
When the cells in the pancreas are damaged by cancer formation, the risk of a tumor blocking the bile duct increases significantly. This might happen, as the bile duct is located between the pancreas and the liver. Such blockage can also occur due to gallstones (hardened bile) and inflammation (swelling of the duct.) 
In that case, the liver might be disabled to continue functioning properly and may begin to fail breaking down red blood cells. As a result, the amount of bilirubin in the blood may increase and the skin may turn yellow.
Why does your skin turn yellow after surgery?
Postoperative jaundice can occur in the recovery time after surgery. People may experience such a condition due to overproduction of bilirubin in the body together with low hepatic clearance, which is basically big volumes of blood that have to pass through the liver for a short period of time. This usually happens when the surgery has required blood transfusions. 
What to do if you have jaundice?
If you are diagnosed with jaundice, it’s crucial to follow your doctor’s advice on how to proceed with a treatment. Often, jaundice itself is not treated, but a specific therapy is applied to the underlying reason for the yellow skin. For that reason, it’s very important to have regular consultations with your doctor and not underestimate the seriousness of this symptom. Every body is different and requires tailored treatment and medical care.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I do not aim to give any medical advice. The information presented in this article is based on research and aims to give information about the topic