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Xanthochromia is a pale yellow substance in the cerbebrospinal fluid (CSF). The CSF is a cushiony fluid that protects the brain and spine. Xanthochromia is usually associated with a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). An SAH is bleeding between the first two layers that cover the brain. The presence of xanthochromia can indicate the presence of an SAH if the brain CT scan is negative (normal) after 12 hours and the person has symptoms suggested an SAH (e.g., sudden and severe headache). The yellow color is caused by red blood cells that that enter the CSF during bleeding. The cells are destroyed by the body which produces an oxygen carrying molecule. This is destroyed by enzymes which degrade it into a yellow-green pigment known as bilirubin. An enzyme is a type of protein that helps produce chemical reactions in the body.
Xanthochromia is also the occurrence of yellow colored patches in the skin that resemble a condition known as xanthoma. Whereas xanthoma on the skin takes the form of yellow plaques or nodules, xanthochromia does not. Plaques and nodules are both areas on or in the body that appear different from other tissue, with nodules being more swollen.
In this sense of the word, xanthochromia is also known as yellow skin, xanthoderma, cholesterodoma, xanthochroia, xanthopathy, yellow disease, and yellow skin. Xanthocromic means pertaining to xanthochromia. Xanthochromia comes from the Greek word "xanthos" meaning "yellow," and the Greek word "chroma" meaning "color." Put the two words together and you have "yellow color."