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Understanding Liver Failure. Plus: How Do I Know If My Liver Is Healthy?

Written by Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi on Wed, 16 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • Liver failure is the loss of liver function, and if left untreated, it can be fatal.
  • Abdominal pain, vomiting, pale dark urine, fatigue, loss of appetite, and sleepiness are some of the symptoms of liver failure.
  • Acetaminophen overdose, mushroom poisoning, autoimmune disease, viral infection, industrial toxins, metabolic disorder, sepsis, and shock can cause acute liver failure.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption, high levels of body fat, infection from unclean needles, and unsafe sex are among the top causes of chronic liver failure.
  • There are certain signs of a healthy liver, too, and they indicate that the liver is working well.
  • Since symptoms of liver damage are sometimes unclear, one should know the signs of a healthy liver as well, to ascertain if the liver is working as it should.
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Do you know which hard-working organ sits in the upper-right portion of our abdomen? It's the liver, and it helps us live!

The liver is an extremely vital organ and performs a variety of functions, mainly associated with metabolism and toxin filtration. The liver tissue faces a lot of stress daily, and it has the ability to self-repair.

But sometimes, this stress can get too much for the liver to handle; that's when liver failure symptoms may appear. The top causes of liver failure are bad lifestyle choices, e.g. heavy alcohol consumption; a viral infection; overdose of some medicine(s); the eating of poisonous mushrooms; or a medical condition called hereditary hemochromatosis.

You must know about both healthy liver signs and liver damage causes to ensure that this vital organ doesn't develop any irreversible conditions such as liver cirrhosis, which might lead to liver failure.

Liver failure

In the human body, the liver is a leading solid organ. The liver performs many functions, including:

  • Bile manufacturing, bile is most necessary for assisting the digestion of food.
  • Clearing the bloodstream from harmful substances like drugs and alcohol.
  • Saturated fat
  • Manufacturing proteins that help to clot the blood, transport oxygen, and support the immune system.

Liver failure is the term for a condition when the liver is too unwell to fully do its work, such as producing bile, filtering toxins out of the body, and regulating blood sugar levels.

While the liver doesn't produce the hormone insulin, which comes from the pancreas and controls blood sugar, the liver can respond to high levels of insulin — this indicates a high level of sugar in the blood — by absorbing some of that sugar and storing it as glycogen, to be released later when the body needs sugar. The liver's chief job is processing all kinds of toxins and waste materials from our food and drink and getting it excreted.

As is evident, if these extremely important processes are hampered, your overall health will suffer. Untreated liver failure could even become fatal.

Acute liver failure is a life-threatening condition, where sudden massive death of liver cells occurs. This may cause complications like excessive internal bleeding. It may cause a sudden hospitalization. Patients suffering from liver failure face a poor quality of life and are at an increased risk of dying due to liver failure.

Signs and symptoms of liver failure:

  • Fluid retention: Cirrhosis, a condition in which scar tissue replaces good liver tissue, is the most prevalent symptom of liver illness, occurring in 50% of patients. Fluid accumulation can lead to abdominal distension and limb edema. This occurs when your liver veins have high blood pressure or your liver is unable to produce albumin, a protein that keeps blood from leaking into tissue.
  • Skin and eyes became pale yellow (jaundice): This symptom results in darker urine and a yellowish tint to your skin or eyes. Bilirubin, a pigment formed when red blood cells break down, builds up in your system, causing it to look. Bilirubin is absorbed and converted into bile by a healthy liver. Your body then eliminates it through feces.
  • Mental confusion: Hepatic encephalopathy is a disorder caused by a build-up of excess toxins in the brain. It ensues because the liver fails to clear blood from harmful chemicals and toxins. This condition may affect the mood, speech, sleep, and behavior of the patient.
  • Easily bleeding: The portal vein connects the liver to the other digestive organs, including the gall bladder and intestine. The portal vein is where around 25% of your blood is cycled by your liver. Cirrhosis can damage the portal vein functioning and allows for an increased risk of bleeding. You may vomit blood, have blood in your feces, or experience rectal bleeding.

 

 

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Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi

Blessing Ifunanya Maduelosi is a pharmacist by profession; her health credentials include a BPharm (Bachelor of Pharmacy). Blessing is a resident of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.

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  1. Polson J et al. Etiologies of acute liver failure: location, location, location!. Liver Transplantation: Official Publication of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the International Liver Transplantation Society. 2007 Oct 1;13(10):1362-3.
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