Public Health

What Causes Yellow Eyes? 4 Common Causes, Treatments, and Specialists

Khang T. Vuong, MHA
Khang T. Vuong, MHA13 Jul 2023

Your yellowing eyes could be a symptom of jaundice (jaune means yellow in French) or other liver diseases, alcohol abuse, or disorders affecting your gallbladder or pancreas. These causes account for over 85% of the cases, according to a study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Treatment options range from changes in diet and lifestyle, to medication, or even surgery in severe cases. Home remedies can complement these treatments, while seeking timely medical assistance is crucial.

What is and isn't yellow eye? 

Understanding the changes in eye color, especially when they turn yellow, is vital in diagnosing and treating potential underlying health conditions. Yellowing of the sclera (the white part of the eyes), medically known as icterus, signifies an accumulation of bilirubin, a yellow compound produced when the body replaces old red blood cells. This color change can indicate several health conditions, including liver diseases, alcohol abuse, gallbladder, or pancreatic disorders, among others.

Having the natural color of the iris being greenish-yellow or yellow doesn't mean you have yellow eyes. 

4 Common Causes of Yellow Eyes

Jaundice and Liver Diseases35%Management often involves treating the underlying condition causing jaundice, such as medications for liver diseases.
Alcohol Abuse30%Reducing alcohol intake or complete abstinence, often combined with medical and psychological support.
Gallbladder or Pancreatic Disorders20%Treatment depends on the specific disorder. This could range from dietary changes to surgery or other medical interventions. 
Anemia, genetic disorders, and cancer15%Treatment varies widely and should be determined by a healthcare professional.

1. Jaundice and Liver Diseases (35% of cases)

Jaundice and liver diseases account for approximately 35% of yellow eyes cases. Jaundice occurs when the body's process of filtering out old red blood cells is disrupted, leading to a buildup of bilirubin and consequently yellowing of the eyes. Liver diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, often impair this essential function, causing yellowing.

2. Alcohol Abuse (30% of cases)

Alcohol abuse contributes to about 30% of yellow eye cases. Alcohol can cause significant liver damage, impairing its ability to filter out bilirubin, which leads to yellow eyes. Limiting alcohol intake or abstaining entirely can help prevent further damage and potentially reverse the yellowing.

3. Gallbladder or Pancreatic Disorders (20% of cases)

Gallbladder or pancreatic disorders contribute to 20% of yellow eyes cases. Disorders of these organs can disrupt the process of breaking down red blood cells, leading to excess bilirubin in the blood and causing yellow eyes.

4. Other Rare Causes (15% of cases)

Finally, other less common causes account for 15% of yellow eyes cases. These can include anemia, certain genetic disorders, and some types of cancer. Though less common, these causes are equally serious and require medical attention.

How to Cure Yellow Eyes

Treating yellow eyes often lies in addressing the underlying cause. This can be achieved through changes in diet and lifestyle, medication, and potentially surgery.

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Changes in Diet and Lifestyle

Reducing alcohol consumption and implementing a healthy diet can help treat yellow eyes. Chronic heavy drinking can lead to conditions such as alcoholic hepatitis, causing yellowing of the eyes. Additionally, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy liver, as recommended by the American Liver Foundation.


Specific medications may be required to treat liver diseases or gallbladder/pancreatic disorders causing yellow eyes. For example, antiviral drugs might be used to treat hepatitis, a common cause of liver disease. Drugs like Ursodiol can be used to dissolve gallstones, another cause of yellow eyes.


In extreme cases, surgery may be required to treat yellow eyes. In cases of severe cirrhosis or liver cancer, a liver transplant may be necessary.

What Are The Best Home Remedies for Yellow Eyes?

While medical treatment is paramount, there are also home remedies to supplement the treatment of yellow eyes.


Proper hydration helps the liver carry out its duties of detoxifying the blood and producing bile.

Herbal Teas

Certain herbal teas, such as green tea and milk thistle, may be beneficial for liver health. A study found that green tea can help prevent liver disease.

Foods rich in Vitamin A and C

Vitamins A and C can help prevent eye diseases. Consuming foods like carrots, oranges, and strawberries that are rich in these vitamins could be beneficial.

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When to Seek Care for Yellowing Eyes?

Understanding the severity of jaundice, the medical term for yellowing eyes, is crucial. Jaundice is not a disease but a symptom of several possible underlying conditions, such as liver disease, gallbladder disease, or blood disorders. The severity of jaundice can range from mild to severe, with symptoms including yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, and light-colored stools. If the yellowing of the eyes is accompanied by severe abdominal pain, fever, or confusion, immediate care is necessary, as it is considered a medical emergency (American Family Physician, 2020).

Which Doctor Should I See For Yellow Eyes?

Primary Care Doctors

Primary care clinics often serve as the first line of defense, offering initial consultation and treatment under the guidance of a family doctor or general practitioner. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, these clinics are the cornerstone of the health care system, handling about 85% of common health issues.

Urgent Care Clinics

However, if symptoms worsen suddenly, and immediate care is required, urgent care centers can serve as a lifeline. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, these centers offer extended hours and are equipped to handle non-life threatening emergencies, making them a convenient alternative to hospital emergency rooms.


Specialty clinics offer a more targeted approach to healthcare, providing expert opinion and treatment for specific conditions. For yellow eyes, which could be a symptom of liver diseases or gallbladder and pancreatic disorders, specialists like Hepatologists and Gastroenterologists can provide valuable insights.

Out-of-Pocket Costs for Specialist Consultation

When it comes to managing yellow eyes, Hepatologists and Gastroenterologists can offer invaluable assistance. Hepatologists specialize in diseases of the liver, bile ducts, and gallbladder. Consulting a hepatologist can lead to better outcomes for patients with liver diseases (American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases). However, the out-of-pocket expenses for consulting a hepatologist can range from $200 to $400 per visit.

On the other hand, Gastroenterologists are experts in the digestive system, including the gallbladder and pancreas. A study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that gastroenterologist care can lead to improved patient satisfaction and outcomes. The cost of consulting a Gastroenterologist can vary, with out-of-pocket expenses ranging between $225 and $500 per visit.


  1. Can yellow eyes be a symptom of an underlying condition? Yes, yellow eyes can be a symptom of several potential underlying conditions, including liver disease, gallbladder disease, or blood disorders (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
  2. How does alcohol consumption cause yellow eyes? Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the liver, impairing its ability to filter out bilirubin, a yellowish substance produced in the body. This can lead to jaundice (Cleveland Clinic, 2020).
  3. What are the primary treatments for yellow eyes? The treatment for yellow eyes depends on the underlying cause. Options can include medication, surgery, or lifestyle changes such as abstaining from alcohol (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
  4. What home remedies can help cope with yellow eyes? Home remedies for yellow eyes focus on supporting overall liver health and may include drinking plenty of water, consuming a balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol (Healthline, 2020).
  5. When should I seek medical care for yellow eyes? If the yellowing of the eyes is accompanied by severe abdominal pain, fever, or confusion, it is considered a medical emergency and immediate care is necessary (American Family Physician, 2020).
  6. How can Mira Health help with yellowing eyes? Mira Health can help manage jaundice through regular monitoring and expert guidance, offering symptom trackers and personalized treatment plans (Mira Health, 2021).
Khang T. Vuong, MHA

Khang T. Vuong received his Master of Healthcare Administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. He was named Forbes Healthcare 2021 30 under 30. Vuong spoke at Stanford Medicine X, HIMSS conference, and served as a Fellow at the Bon Secours Health System.