Information about Jaundice for Massage Therapists

Information about Jaundice for Massage Therapists


Jaundice causes the skin and the whites of the eyes to turn yellow. Too much bilirubin causes jaundice. Bilirubin is a yellow chemical in hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen in red blood cells. As red blood cells break down, your body builds new cells to replace them. The old ones are processed by the liver. Bilirubin accumulates in the body and the skin may look yellow. if the liver is overwhelmed by the blood cells breaking down.

Here are some common causes of jaundice:

  • Blood diseases
  • Genetic syndromes
  • Liver diseases, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis
  • Blockage or cancer of bile ducts
  • Infections
  • Medicines[i]


If a client presents with jaundice, ask them about this observation and recommend they consult a physician if they were unaware of the condition.  Be clear that you are not making a medical diagnosis but a referral instead.  A client could have a serious medical condition with jaundice so use caution and be vigilant in their service, until there is a medical explanation as to why they have jaundice. Jaundice usually would not be a contraindication; however, it would be best to request a prescription for massage therapy service to ensure the client is not suffering from more severe medical disease that could be contraindicated.


The photo on this page is picture of a person with jaundice.  The picture is from Emory University in 1963 and published on the CDC website.  The photo caption states: the viral disease Hepatitis A is manifested here in this photo as icterus, or jaundice of the conjunctivae and facial skin.  HAV is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth (even though it may look clean) that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. Adults will have signs and symptoms more often than children.


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[i] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Jaundice | Icterus.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Mar. 2018,

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