Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

It is hard to identify liver failure initially. It is a slow process and occurs over a period of years. As liver is responsible for many significant functions, its failure causes a major alteration and affect the other parts of the body. Hence, the major symptoms associated with liver failure is often confused with other health problem and thus identification is the difficult task at the initial phase. Nearly 75% of the liver gets affected before any decrease in function take place.

In many illnesses, skin shows the first sign and symptoms. Any changes in the skin reflect the problem and identification is much easier in human health. In liver disease or failure situation, the skin discoloration is the first sign followed by yellowing of eyes because of the elevated level of the bilirubin in the blood. This happens because of liver incapable to remove the yellow pigment-bilirubin from the blood. It is the indication of jaundice or acute inflammation stage in the liver. Many healthy babies have mild jaundice during the first month after birth. But this can be eradicated by light therapy or phototherapy by breaking down the building bilirubin in the blood. Yellow nails, drowsiness, weight loss, loss of appetite, diarrhea, change in color of stool and continues irritation in the bowel are some of the problems associated with initial stage of liver cirrhosis.

Acute liver failure progresses within 8 to 28 days after initial symptoms i.e., jaundice. Followed by deterioration of liver cells resulting in encephalopathy and coagulation. Hepatic encephalopathy development condition is called “fulminant hepatic failure” that occur within 8 weeks of jaundice. If hepatic encephalopathy occurs within 7 days of jaundice, the condition is called “hyperacute hepatic failure”. Medical imaging in the diagnosis of acute liver failure can able to distinguish the nodules on surfaces indicating cirrhosis. Portal hypertension and nodules in the liver can be demonstrated by imaging. Acute liver failure may be reversible or irreversible, but there is a curable cause and the liver can able to recover and resume its normal functions.

What Happens To The Body During A Liver Failure?

What Happens To The Body During A Liver Failure?

During acute liver failure, ascites are common i.e., accumulation of fluid in the abdomen accompanied by severe abdominal pain. Hematemesis is seen due to bleeding in gastro-intestine; low blood pressure, tachycardia (fast heartbeat), cerebral edema, and obstruction of bile flow are some of the damages observed in acute failure phase.

In chronic liver disease, abnormal glucose metabolism is often identified. It is very difficult to stabilize the health during a chronic liver illness. Autoimmune chronic liver diseases, certain liver hereditary disease (e.g., Wilson's disease) and cryptogenic cirrhosis are some of the untreatable chronic liver disorders where liver transplant is the only options. In some patients, the excess amount of accumulation of iron is observed in their hepatic parenchyma cells. This increase in iron concentration in patients serum is unknown. But several studies assumed that it may be because of injury in hepatocytes, free radical formation, mitochondrial dysfunction, cell death, or irregularity in lipid peroxidation.

Certain liver disease has no symptoms e.g., Gilbert's disease. The individuals won't process the bilirubin properly. It is mild and only blood test can reveal the disease. Likewise, patients with gallstone would experience severe symptoms like fever, pain in the upper abdomen and vomiting. Itchiness because of bile salts accumulation in the skin, decreased clotting factor resulting bruising, enlargement of breast in men due to hormonal imbalance, and impotence is some of the changes seen in patients with chronic liver diseases.

The physical symptoms affect the quality of life as it develops several psychological illnesses among chronic liver failure patients. Prevalent mental health confusions, poor prognosis, symptoms burden, and pain are some of the negative impacts of end-stage liver failure. Initial integration of palliative care is the only option for patients with an end-stage liver disease which may lead to improvement in the quality of life and potentially improve a patient's chance of survival after transplantation.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: May 17, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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