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Liver Failure: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Liver Failure: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

July 1, 2020

What Is Liver Failure?

Liver failure is the condition that occurs when the liver is unable to perform essential functions suitably. The liver is one of the most essential organs in the human body. It is also one of the busiest organs performing thousands of chemical reactions. It has various enzymes that assist the liver in chemical reactions. Liver failure indicates that a major part of your liver has been damaged. The damage to the liver may be caused due to multiple reasons.

Liver failure is an emergency condition and requires prompt medical intervention. The untreated condition may lead to fatal complications. The primary reason for liver failure is cirrhosis or scarring of the liver that may be caused due to various reasons.

Causes Of Liver Failure

Liver failure may be acute or chronic.

Acute liver failure is caused due to-

Paracetamol toxicity: It is considered as one of the most common causes of acute liver failure. It generally occurs when the person takes a higher than the recommended dose of paracetamol for several days. 

Hepatitis and other viral infections: Various viral infections including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, Epstein Barr viral infection, and cytomegalovirus infection may lead to acute liver failure.


Other medications and supplements: Various medications such as certain antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs and the herbal supplement may lead to acute hepatic failure.

Presence of toxins: Various toxic chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride may also lead to liver failure.

Underlying medical condition: Autoimmune diseases, metabolic disorders and other conditions such as Budd-Chiari syndrome may also lead to liver failure.

Shock: Shock and sepsis may reduce the supply of blood to the liver leading to liver failure.

Chronic liver failure shows symptoms after a considerable period. Chronic liver failure may be caused due to-

Chronic alcohol abuse: Chronic alcohol abuse may lead to liver failure. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver. Taking in excess quantity reduces liver function and damage the liver cells.

Underlying medical conditions: Underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, cystic fibrosis, and any obstruction in bile duct or blood vessel disturbance may lead to chronic liver failure.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, when left untreated, may progress to cause liver failure.

Symptoms Of Liver Failure

Following are some of the symptoms of liver failure:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Yellowing of nails and white of the eye.
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Swelling in the abdominal area
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced brain function
  • Easy bruising or bleeding

Risk Factors Of Liver Failure

In some people, the presence of certain factors increases the risk of liver failure. These factors include:

Alcohol abuse: People who have an excessive intake of alcohol are at high risk of liver failure.

Sharing of needles: Sharing of needles increases the risk of various viral infections such as hepatitis. This may lead to liver failure.

Progression of medical condition: People who do not get timely treatment of certain medical conditions such as fatty liver disease may have an increased risk of liver failure.

Underlying medical condition: People with an underlying medical condition like obesity and diabetes are at increased risk of liver failure.

Diagnostic Methods Of Liver Failure

Various diagnostic methods are used to diagnose the liver failure. These include:

Physical examination: The doctor will perform a physical examination and may advise the patient to undergo further tests.

Blood tests: Liver function tests help determine the functioning of the liver.

Imaging techniques: CT scan or MRI of the liver can be done to identify the presence and extent of liver damage.

Liver biopsy: To determine the presence and cause of liver failure, a small tissue is taken from the liver for analysis.

Treatment Options For Liver Failure

Depending upon the extent of liver damage and various other factors, the following are the treatment options of liver failure:

Medications: Various medications may help in reversing the liver failure if provided at an early stage for instance in the case of paracetamol toxicity or poisoning due to various chemicals.

Monitoring: The doctor will provide the patients with medications that reduce the symptoms of liver failure. The underlying cause may go of its own while the patient is under constant monitoring.

Liver transplantation: When the other treatment options fail to restore liver functions, the doctor may recommend liver transplantation.

It is important to note that the liver is an essential organ and unfortunately, in most cases, there are no signs and symptoms of liver failure. Thus, it is important to ensure good liver health by following a healthy lifestyle.