What are the Symptoms of Liver Failure?

Liver failure is a serious and life-threatening condition in which the liver is unable to perform its vital functions adequately. There are two main types of liver failure: acute liver failure, which occurs suddenly, and chronic liver failure, which develops over time. The symptoms of liver failure can vary depending on the stage and cause of the condition, but common symptoms include:

Early Symptoms:

  • Fatigue: Feeling extremely tired and lacking energy is a common early symptom of liver failure.
  • Jaundice: One of the hallmark signs of liver failure is jaundice, which causes yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It occurs when the liver is unable to process bilirubin, a waste product that is normally excreted in bile.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: People with liver failure often experience persistent nausea and may vomit.
  • Loss of Appetite: A reduced appetite and unintentional weight loss can occur.
  • Abdominal Pain: Abdominal pain and discomfort may be present in the upper right side of the abdomen, where the liver is located.
  • Dark Urine: Urine may become dark in color due to the buildup of bilirubin.

As Liver Failure Progresses:

  • Swelling (Edema): Fluid retention and swelling in the legs and abdomen (ascites) can occur due to the liver’s inability to produce proteins needed to maintain fluid balance.
  • Easy Bruising and Bleeding: Liver failure can lead to a decrease in the production of blood-clotting proteins, resulting in easy bruising and prolonged bleeding.
  • Itchy Skin (Pruritus): Elevated levels of bile products in the blood can lead to itchy skin.
  • Confusion and Mental Changes: Known as hepatic encephalopathy, liver failure can cause cognitive impairment, confusion, and changes in behavior and personality.
  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels may result from impaired glucose metabolism in the liver.
  • Muscle Wasting: Muscle weakness and wasting of muscle tissue can occur.
  • Spider Angiomas: Small blood vessels on the skin, resembling spider legs, may appear due to changes in blood flow.
  • Palmar Erythema: The palms of the hands may develop a reddish or blotchy appearance.

In Advanced Stages:

  • Bleeding Disorders: Severe liver failure can lead to severe bleeding disorders and an increased risk of hemorrhage.
  • Coma: Hepatic coma or hepatic encephalopathy can progress to a state of unconsciousness.

Liver failure can result from various causes, including viral hepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), cirrhosis, drug-induced liver injury, and more. The symptoms and progression of liver failure can vary depending on the underlying cause. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of liver failure, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to improve outcomes, and in some cases, a liver transplant may be necessary to save a person’s life.

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