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What could be causing my jaundice?

Asked by Elizabeth, South Carolina

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I have been sick for two weeks and my doctor said I have jaundice from mono. I got my belly button pierced on spring break in Mexico and I'm worried. Could my jaundice be from hepatitis C or HIV instead?

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Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. If your doctor did a test for mononucleosis, it would make sense that your jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) is due to one of the viruses that causes the mono syndrome. Mono is commonly spread between college and high school students and may be transmitted by kissing or other contact with saliva such as from sharing drinks. The most common symptoms are fever, sore throat, swollen glands and extreme tiredness. Jaundice occurs in up to 30% of people who have the infection and goes away in about four to six weeks without any special treatment.

Body piercing performed under nonsterile conditions has been linked to infections such as hepatitis B and C viruses as well as HIV. A person who is pierced with a ring that was contaminated by an infected individual could potentially catch one of those viruses. Poor piercing hygiene practices such as reusing dirty equipment or not washing ones hands or changing gloves may also enable infections to be spread. The states in America have varying health regulations for places that perform body piercing; however, the situation may be different in Mexico. Your physician can test you for hepatitis B and C and HIV infections, but it's most likely that your jaundice is the result of your mono infection.

Good luck!

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