Liver failure is a condition in which a large part of the liver is damaged and no longer able to function. In cases of acute liver failure, the organ can no longer regenerate or repair itself. The life-threatening condition cannot be reversed and requires liver transplant from a healthy donor.
Liver is a crucial organ of the human body that plays a critical role in different bodily functions, from iron metabolism to protein production, glucose absorption, and blood clotting. Liver also plays a significant role in removing toxins from the body, fighting infections and illness, controlling cholesterol levels, aiding in digestion, and helping blood to clot.
There are two common types of failure of the liver, including
- Chronic – It is a gradual process that develops slowly and results in severe but slow deterioration in liver function.
- Acute – Loss of liver function is rapid. It is also known as fulminant hepatic failure that is often associated with excessive bleeding.
Liver Failure Causes
Some of the most common causes of live failure include:
- Viral hepatitis, also known as Hepatitis A, B, C, causing cell inflammation
- Long term alcohol consumption
- Liver cirrhosis
- Vascular disease
- Rare metabolic diseases
- Cancer, liver tissue damage
- Absorption and accumulation of too much iron
- Overdose of certain medications, including acetaminophen
- Ingestion of poisonous substances, such as wild mushrooms
Liver Failure Symptoms
When the liver malfunctions, it can no longer process bilirubin, which is a waste product formed from the breaking down of old red blood cells. When bilirubin cannot be processed, it cannot be eliminated from the body. As a result, bilirubin accumulates in the blood and may also be deposited in the skin, resulting in jaundice.
In another condition, the liver is not able to synthesize enough proteins required for blood clotting. As a result, the condition deteriorates, resulting in unstoppable bleeding, also known as coagulopathy.
If the liver cannot remove toxins from the body, brain function may deteriorate, resulting in buildup of these waste products in the blood. The resulting disorder is termed as hepatic encephalopathy. The liver is responsible for conversion of toxins into urea, which is excreted in the urine.
For some people with liver problems, kidneys malfunction. People with liver problems may have metabolic abnormalities, resulting in a low level of potassium or sugar in the blood.
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme weakness
- Vomiting, nausea
- Discoloration of skin
- Weight loss
- Pain in upper abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
Liver Failure Complications
A failing liver can cause other complications, including
- Bleeding disorders –Uncontrolled bleeding from gastrointestinal tract
- Cerebral edema– Fluid retention in the brain, depriving brain of oxygen
- Kidney failure –Damage to kidneys
- Infections – immune system failure results in all kinds of infections
Blood tests are done to determine whether the liver is performing its blood clotting function properly. In acute liver failure, the liver’s blood clotting function is compromised. Further, the doctor may request ultrasound imaging tests to look for signs of liver damage. In some cases, liver biopsy is done to help the doctor determine causes of the failing liver.
Acute liver failure caused by drug overdose can be treated with a medication therapy that reverses the effects of toxins. However, in most acute liver failure cases, liver transplant is the only alternative, since there is no chance of regeneration of the severely damaged liver.
All in all, a healthy lifestyle, with healthy eating and drinking habits, must be adopted to ensure that your liver stays in good health.