Liver failure is a life-threatening condition that demands urgent medical care. Most often, liver failure happens gradually, over many years. It’s the final stage of many liver diseases. But a rarer condition known as acute liver failure happens rapidly (in as little as 48 hours) and can be difficult to detect at first.
Liver failure happens when large parts of the liver become damaged beyond repair and the liver can’t work anymore.
There are two types of live failure:
- Acute: This is when your liver stops working within a matter of days or weeks. Most people who get this don’t have any type liver disease or problem before this event.
- Chronic: Damage to your liver builds up over time and causes it to stop working.
Symptoms of Liver Disease and Liver Failure
The early symptoms of liver failure are often similar to those of liver diseases and other conditions. Because of this, liver failure may be tough to diagnose at first. Early symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
But as liver failure progresses, the symptoms become more serious, needing care right away. These symptoms include:
- Bleeding easily
- Swollen belly
- Mental confusion (known as hepatic encephalopathy)
Causes of Acute Liver Failure
The causes of acute liver failure, when the liver fails rapidly, include:
- Acetaminophen overdose: Large doses can damage your liver or lead to failure.
- Viruses including hepatitis A, B, and E, the Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus: They lead to liver damage or cirrhosis.
- Reactions to certain prescription and herbal medications: Some kill cells in your liver. Others damage the duct system that moves bile through it.
- Eating poisonous wild mushrooms: A kind called Amanita phalloides, also known as death cap, contains toxins that damage liver cells and lead to liver failure within a couple of days.
- Autoimmune hepatitis: As with viral hepatitis, this disease, in which your body attacks your liver, can lead to acute liver failure.
- Wilson’s disease: This genetic disease prevents your body from removing copper. It builds up in, and damages, your liver.
- Acute fatty liver of pregnancy: In this rare condition, excess fat gathers on your liver and damages it.
- Septic shock: This overwhelming infection in your body can damage your liver or cause it to stop working.
- Budd Chiari syndrome: This rare disease narrows and blocks the blood vessels in your liver.
- Industrial toxins: Many chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride, a cleaner and degreaser, can damage your liver.