Signs of Liver Failure
Liver failure is a life-threatening condition. Damages to the liver over time cease it from functioning properly. Chronic liver failure takes a long time to develop. Usually, the damage comes from a long-term liver disease, such as cirrhosis of the liver. When the body’s liver cells are significantly damaged or no longer function, acute liver failure occurs and becomes fatal. Acute liver failure can happen suddenly, usually resulting from overdoses of acetaminophen or ingestion of toxic substances.
What the Liver Should Do
Primarily, the liver is a digestive filter for the blood stream. The liver makes blood-clotting substances and proteins needed in the blood. As food enters the digestive tract, it passes through the liver, which filters out toxic chemicals before the liver’s energy-making compounds enter the blood stream. This filter keeps out excessive bilirubin that causes jaundice.
Complications from Liver Failure
When the liver malfunctions or ceases to perform, there are dire complications. The liver needs to produce a certain amount of clotting factors. When it can’t, bleeding in other areas of the body is difficult to control. People with malfunctioning livers are more susceptible to infections, especially those in the blood or respiratory and urinary tracts. Often kidney failure follows liver failure.
Recognizing Liver Failure
Recognizing liver failure is difficult because it usually progresses slowly and goes unnoticed. Liver failure doesn't always give clear notice. When a liver is failing, the symptoms aren't necessarily obvious. Even healthy people can develop a failing liver. Sometimes its symptoms mock those of other less damaging diseases. In the early stages of liver failure, symptoms may be vague and could be confused with chronic fatigue syndrome or viral gastroenteritis, which are less serious. There are some signs, however, that might indicate that the liver is failing.
• Jaundice or yellowing of the eyes or skin
• Unusual changes in mental state, such as disorientation or confusion, sleeplessness, or inability to concentrate
• Unusual nausea and vomiting
• Tremors, twitches, or seizures
• Swelling of the belly or legs, especially tenderness in the upper right area of the abdomen
• General feeling of being unwell
Possible Causes of Acute Liver Failure
Although cancer failure may have no apparent cause, there are many reasons that a liver may not function as it should.
• Overdose of acetaminophen: either taking too much at once or regularly taking higher dosages daily than recommended (this also affects the kidneys)
• Some prescription meds, like antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and anticonvulsants
• Some herbal supplements like kava, ephedra, skullcap and pennyroyal
• Viruses like Hepatitis A, B, or E, or herpes simplex
• Toxins (especially the poisonous Amanita phalloides mushrooms that can be easily confused with edible ones)
• Autoimmune hepatitis
• Vascular diseases that block the veins of the liver
• Rare metabolic diseases
Dealing with Liver Failure
It is possible to reverse the deterioration of the liver with rapid diagnosis and a good treatment plan. However, a liver that is permanently damaged cannot be cured, only slowed. Living with liver failure may require aggressive treatment and is challenging. Dying as a result of a failed liver may be merciful, however, because the onset of confusion is fairly rapid.