Carotenosis is a medical condition caused by an excessive consumption of carotenoids, the compounds which make fruits and vegetables yellow, orange, or red. When someone develops carotenosis, his or her skin turns yellowish to orange, but typically no other ill effects are observed. Although the condition is itself benign, it can be a sign of malnutrition, and most people seek treatment because they would prefer more normally-hued skin. It is a rather eye-catching condition which tends to attract unwanted attention.
This condition affects fair-skinned people, as the reduced melanin in their skin makes the yellow staining more visible. One of the most common causes of carotenosis is an excessive consumption of multivitamins or carrots. If you've ever heard the story that too many carrots can turn you orange, now you know that this is, in fact, true. This condition is also very common in people with eating disorders, as they may take vitamin supplements in an attempt to get the vitamins they need, or they may regard carrots as a “safe” food, eating high volumes of them in lieu of other foods.
The treatment for carotenosis is simple: cut down on the carotene. Cutting down on the consumption of carrots and switching multivitamins can usually resolve the issue, although it may take time for the yellow color to fade as the body slowly absorbs the excess carotene and converts it to retinal, a form of vitamin A. Medical intervention is not usually required, unless the condition is associated with malnutrition or an eating disorder.
If the carotenosis is caused by an imbalanced diet, it is a good idea to consult a nutritionist, especially in the case of prolonged malnutrition. Dietary imbalances sometimes require several steps to correct, as people may not be able to bounce back into a normal diet. The services of a psychologist may also be required, in the event the malnutrition is associated with an eating disorder.
Carotenosis and jaundice are sometimes confused, because both turn the skin yellowish to orange. However, in cases of true jaundice, the whites of the eyes also turn yellow. Jaundice does require medical intervention, as it can be a symptom of a fatal medical condition such as liver failure. As always, it is better to be safe than sorry, and a doctor will certainly not scold a patient for seeking medical attention for carotenosis under the mistaken impression that he or she has jaundice.