Liver Failure (Hepatic Failure) Causes, Symptoms & Complications

The liver is one of the most irreplaceable organs in your body that weighs (1200-1800) gm. The liver is a dark reddish-brown and lies in the upper right side of the abdomen, below the diaphragm, and behind the lower ribs. The liver is divided anatomically into a small left lobe and a large right one. Both lobes consist of 8 segments that consist of 1000 lobules. Lobules are small lobes connected to large ducts to form the common hepatic duct. The liver gets its blood supply from two sources:

  • Oxygenated blood from the hepatic artery
  • Deoxygenated blood from the intestine and spleen by the portal vein

The liver is essential for digesting food and eliminating your body from toxins. It regulates your body levels of biochemicals and excretes the bile. The liver detoxifies all blood that comes from the digestive tract.

We talked about the liver to know what its failure means to you.

In the U.S, about 30 million people have liver diseases. Liver failure means that your liver can’t do its work. It happens gradually over many years due to many reasons, such as overuse of medicals, poisons, or alcohol. Also, certain diseases can cause liver failure as hepatitis, Wilson’s disease, herpes simplex virus, or infections. It also may be due to unknown causes.

Liver failure has many symptoms, which warns you to be aware and see your doctor. If you are suffering from acute hepatic failure, you may have any of the following symptoms:

  • Early: fatigue, fever, anorexia, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss
  • Later on: jaundice, ascites, and hepatic encephalopathy

Without early and proper management, liver failure may complicate and affect other organs like the kidney, brain, and circulatory system. If uncontrolled, it may lead to death.

When you see your doctor, he will ask you about your medical history, use of medicals, alcohol, exposure to toxins, and positive family history of liver disease. Also, physical examinations help your doctor to diagnose your case.

Laboratory investigations, radiological studies, and liver biopsy confirm the liver failure and reveal the cause.

Management depends on your case, whether it is acute or chronic. Treatment of acute (sudden) liver failure is medical; give antidote if the reason was an overuse of medicals or toxics. For example, acetylcysteine can reverse the action of acetaminophen overdose. Treatment of chronic liver failure depends on lifestyle modifications, diet, improving your general health, and treatment of complications. Your doctor will advise you to stop alcohol to save your liver because alcohol is very harmful. In the final stage, your doctor may recommend liver transplantation. If you want to reduce your chances of developing liver failure, you should avoid alcohol. Also, you can take the hepatitis vaccine and live healthy with a good lifestyle.

Your liver deserves your attention.

Let’s discuss it in detail.

What does liver failure mean, what are risk factors, and what are the causes?

Liver (hepatic) failure is the inability of your liver cells to function well. In the late stages, it becomes a life-threatening condition that requires urgent medical care. It’s a chronic disease that develops gradually (over many years). Liver cells can regenerate themselves. The liver only fails when it loses 75% of its cells; thus, early stages are asymptomatic, and symptomatic patients -in late stages- have a worse prognosis.

There are two types of hepatic failure:

  • Acute: This typically occurs within a few days or weeks with no previous complaint of any liver diseases.
  • Chronic: It develops through many years and needs lifelong management.

There are possible causes of liver failure

Causes of acute liver failure:

  • The overuse of drugs, toxins, or other medications (acetaminophen, antibiotics, antidepressants, and antifungal drugs) may cause acute liver failure.
  • Reaction to some medications affects your liver.
  • Viral infection: hepatitis A, B, E, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and herpes simplex virus
  • Autoimmune hepatitis in which your immune system attacks your liver
  • Wilson’s disease: the inability of your body to remove copper leading to damage of your liver.
  • Acute fatty liver in which the excess fat and triglycerides damage your liver
  • Septic shock
  • Physical: severe burns and hyperthermia
  • Bud Chiari syndrome: rare disease causes narrowing of the blood vessels inside the liver.
  • Industrial toxins like carbon tetrachloride and degreaser may affect your liver, leading to its failure.

Causes of chronic liver failure:

  • Overlong period of chronic hepatitis.
  • Long-term alcohol consumption because it leads to liver failure in the end.
  • Hemochromatosis: Retention of iron inside your body.
  • Causes of obstructive jaundice, such as primary biliary cirrhosis and recurrent gall stones

Risky peoples for liver failure are:

  • Heavy alcohol intakes
  • Obese people
  • Patients with type two diabetes mellitus
  • Family history of liver disease
  • Exposure to certain chemicals or toxins
  • Blood transfusion before 1992 (hepatitis…..,).
  • Unprotected sex

Written by Martin Davis