Causes of Liver Failure
Acetaminophen, the main ingredient found in Tylenol and other pain relievers, is the largest contributor to liver failure in the United States. Taking a large dose of acetaminophen at one time can cause shock to your liver and prevent it from functioning properly. Smaller doses can also cause problems if acetaminophen is taken for several consecutive days.
In response to these findings, the Food and Drug Administration has recently required the makers of Tylenol and other such drugs to reduce the dosage of their pills and capsules to less than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. Additionally, the FDA is requiring that warning labels be placed on pill bottles which link the use of acetaminophen to liver damage.
Additional Dangerous Medications
Other medications which can induce liver damage include prescription drugs containing antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-convulsants. There are also herbal supplements which need to be used with extreme care in order to prevent liver failure, including kava, ephedra, skullcap and pennyroyal, as well as toxins found in certain species of wild mushrooms.
In addition to synthetic medications causing damage to the liver, there are several disease conditions which also contribute to the problem. The various forms of Hepatitis, including A, B and E, are particularly troubling when it comes to their link with liver failure. Autoimmune hepatitis attacks liver cells and causes them to become inflamed. Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex virus have been linked to liver disease as well.
Finally, diseases of the veins in the liver, metabolic diseases and liver cancer are all diseases that contribute to the condition of liver failure.
Preventing Liver Failure
The single biggest resource you have for preventing liver failure is to read, understand and follow all instructions on both prescription and non-prescription medication. Never exceed the recommended dosage, and be sure to tell your doctor about all other medications you are taking. Not all drugs interact well together, especially those that may contain acetaminophen, so your doctor needs to be aware of what you are taking in case he or she needs to write an alternate prescription.
If you are taking any type of medication, never mix it with alcohol as the results could be deadly. It's also a good idea to limit your intake of alcohol to no more than one to two drinks per day since excessive use of alcohol has also been linked to liver damage.
To prevent against the various forms of hepatitis, make sure all of your vaccinations are up to date. If you have already contracted Type A or B, a vaccination is still available. Never share needles with anyone and stay clear of other people's blood and body fluids if possible.