Jaundice in the elderly and tropical diseases

I’ve recently learned that my father is jaundiced. He’s 87. My mother took him to the doctors and they’re arranging a scan next week, and instructions to take him straight to hospital if anything happens. So he’s in good hands. In the meantime I’ve been reading up on the causes of jaundice and malaria is mentioned. Now, my father spent a lot of time in Africa and Asia from the late 50s to the late 70s. As far as I know, he never caught malaria, but is it possible it’s lain dormant all these years? (q.v. chickenpox / shingles) Are there any other tropical diseases which should be mooted to the doctors?

It’s not malaria. It’s not any other tropical diseases, either.

If he’s getting a scan, it sounds like the symptoms point to something obstructive rather than infectious. Hang tight, and see what the scan shows.

My concern is that the doctors will have limited knowledge of tropical diseases and simply not consider them.

They have no reason to. Malaria and other tropical diseases don’t go underground for 3-4 decades and then suddenly reemerge. If your father hasn’t been to a tropical country since the 70s, whatever is causing his jaundice isn’t related to his past travel history.

Does he drink a lot? Hepatitis due to liver damage from alcohol is common. It happened to my son about two months ago and he’s only 37.

I agree, FWIW.

That’s good to know. Thanks.

You’re welcome. Here’s hoping that whatever is causing your father’s jaundice turns out to be easily treatable.

Unfortunately my mother has had to take him into hospital.

Fingers crossed.

An update: they discovered a tumour on his pancreas. It is inoperable. They’ve put a stent in to open the bile duct but it’s merely palliative and he likely won’t see next year. :frowning:

I’m sorry, Quartz, but given your father’s age that was exactly what I was expecting when you made your initial post. :frowning: In the case of sudden onset of jaundice without any other obvious symptoms in an elderly person, the differential diagnosis list is: 1. tumor, 2. tumor, 3. tumor, 4. gallstone blocking the common bile duct, 5. medication side effect, 6. everything else. For your sake I was really hoping it would be obstruction secondary to a gallstone (which is easily fixed), but it was not to be.