Liver failure: causes, symptoms, treatment and prognosis

Liver failure involves serious deficiency of liver function. This can occur acutely, but it can also occur during the final phase of chronic liver disease. Excessive alcohol consumption is a risk factor. What are the causes and symptoms of liver failure? How can liver failure be treated and what is the prognosis?

Article content

  • Liver failure
  • Causes of acute liver failure
  • Symptoms of acute liver failure
  • Complications acute liver failure (failure of other vital organs)
  • Causes of chronic liver failure
  • Symptoms of chronic liver failure
  • Treatment of acute and chronic liver failure
  • Prognosis of acute and chronic liver failure

Liver failure

The liver has many indispensable functions: breaking down all kinds of toxins in the blood. If the liver does not function properly, the amount of toxins can increase. Other organs can also be damaged. A distinction can be made between acute liver failure and chronic liver failure.

Causes of acute liver failure

In acute liver failure, the liver suddenly fails. It can be caused by a condition such as acute viral hepatitis. Other causes may be: an autoimmune reaction, alcohol, damage caused by medications (for example if someone has taken too much paracetamol), liver infarction, metabolic diseases (such as Wilson’s disease). Eating poisonous mushrooms can also lead to acute liver failure. In fifteen to twenty-five percent of adults with acute liver failure, no cause can be identified.

Symptoms of acute liver failure

The symptoms of acute liver failure can develop within hours to days. The symptoms are caused by the effects the poison has on the brain:

  • Memory problems;
  • A confused feeling;
  • Being easily stimulated;
  • A person may become dazed.

Complications acute liver failure (failure of other vital organs)

other vital organs such as the kidneys, lungs and heart may fail : Multi Organ Failure (MOF). It can eventually lead to a coma or even death.

Causes of chronic liver failure

Chronic liver failure is often the result of diseases related to excessive alcohol consumption. Chronic hepatitis can also be the cause.

Symptoms of chronic liver failure

Chronic liver failure may not cause any symptoms for a very long time. If there are symptoms, they often develop very slowly:

  • Itching may occur;
  • The skin and whites of the eyes may turn yellow (jaundice);
  • The abdomen may become swollen;
  • Easily bruises;
  • Bleeding very quickly;
  • The fingernails may become strangely shaped;
  • The palms may look red;
  • Many small blood vessels in the skin, they look like spider webs;
  • In men, the breasts may become larger and the testicles may become smaller;
  • You may see blood in the stool, the cause of this is swollen veins in the esophagus;
  • If chronic liver failure worsens acutely, symptoms of acute liver failure occur (see under Symptoms of acute liver failure).

Treatment of acute and chronic liver failure

  • If the condition of someone with acute liver failure or chronic liver failure suddenly worsens, admission to hospital is necessary. Usually in intensive care. Antibiotics may be given. This is to reduce the number of bacteria in the body. The bacteria are an important cause of the toxins that accumulate in the blood (damaging the brain and other organs).
  • If there is chronic liver failure, the doctor will have blood tests done to examine the damage to the liver.
  • A low protein diet may be recommended, this is to reduce the production of substances that are toxic.
  • For a swollen abdomen, fluid-draining agents can be prescribed. Less salty food should also be consumed.
  • Quit alcohol.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment that can repair the damage to the liver.

Prognosis of acute and chronic liver failure

  • People with severe liver failure often need a liver transplant.
  • In people who survive an acute liver failure, the liver usually heals completely. It is important that the liver was healthy before the attack.
  • In chronic liver failure, the prospects depend mainly on the underlying causes. Many people with chronic liver failure lead an ordinary life for years.

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