Acute liver failure is the rapid loss of liver function in a person who has no prior liver illness. Even if you don’t have a history of liver illness, you can develop acute liver failure, also known as fulminant hepatic failure.
Acute liver failure comes on suddenly. It won’t be long until your liver starts to fail you, whether it’s weeks or even days. It’s possible that it happens suddenly and without warning. It’s an urgent medical situation that necessitates clinical care.
In comparison to chronic liver failure, which takes longer to develop, acute liver failure is rare. It can lead to life-threatening issues such severe bleeding and an increase in cerebral blood pressure.
Symptoms of acute liver failure.
Acute liver failure may cause the following symptoms in the body:
- Your skin and eyes will turn yellow (jaundice).
- An excruciating ache in your right upper abdomen.
- Swelling of the abdomen (ascites).
- A overall feeling of ill health (malaise).
- Confusion or a feeling of disorientation.
- Sweats that have a sweet or musty scent.
The symptoms of liver failure might be confused with those of a variety of other conditions, making a diagnosis difficult. Some people’s liver failure progresses to a deadly stage before they display any symptoms. By the time you get to this point, you may be dizzy, drowsy, or even in a coma.
Causes of acute liver failure.
Metabolic diseases. This includes conditions such as Wilson’s disease and pre-eclampsia, which seldom result in liver failure.
Cancer. A failing liver can be caused by cancer that develops in or spreads to the liver.
Shock. Blood flow to the liver is substantially impaired when the body is infected with sepsis or is in shock, causing liver failure.
Taking a lot of acetaminophen at once. The most prevalent cause of acute liver failure in the United States is taking too much acetaminophen. It is possible to experience acute liver failure after taking an extremely large dose of acetaminophen, or after taking doses several times greater than recommended for several days in a row.
Toxins. The dangerous wild fungus Amanita phalloides, which is occasionally mistaken for a harmless one to consume, contains toxins that can induce abrupt liver failure. In addition to acute liver failure, carbon tetrachloride is a poison. Refrigerants and solvents for waxes, varnishes and other materials use it as an industrial chemical.
Drugs prescribed by doctors. There are a number of prescription medications that can result in acute liver failure. These include antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and anticonvulsants.
Herbal supplements. This includes ephedra, skullcap, pennyroyal, and kava as well as other herbal supplements.
Viral hepatitis and associated illnesses. Acute liver failure can be caused by hepatitis A, B, or E. Some other viruses that have been linked to acute liver failure include Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus.
Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Hepatitis C, which causes inflammation and harm to liver cells, is a possible cause of liver failure.
Blood vessels in the liver can get infected. Acute liver failure can result from liver vein obstructions caused by vascular disorders such as Budd-Chiari syndrome.
Stroke caused by extreme heat. Acute liver failure can be triggered by high levels of physical exertion in a hot environment.
Acute liver failure frequently results in the following side effects:
•The brain is swollen with extra fluid (cerebral edema). An excess of fluid in the brain can induce disorientation, mental confusion and even seizures if the pressure builds up too much.
•Bleeding and bleeding-related illnesses and conditions. Clotting factors, which aid in blood clotting, cannot be produced by a failing liver. This illness is frequently accompanied by gastrointestinal bleeding. It’s possible that it’ll be difficult to manage.
•Infections. Blood and respiratory and urinary tract infections are more common in patients with acute liver failure.
•Failure of the kidneys. As acetaminophen overdoses affect both the liver and the kidneys, kidney failure is a common complication of liver failure.
Can acute liver failure be prevented from occurring?
Acute liver failure can be prevented in some cases. Taking an acetaminophen-containing medicine without reading the label’s instructions can result in an overdose. Ask any queries you may have to your pharmacist or healthcare practitioner. Avoiding contact with the blood or excrement of an infected individual lowers your risk of contracting viral hepatitis.
If you’re visiting an underdeveloped country, it’s best not to drink the local tap water. For the prevention of hepatitis A and B, vaccines are available. Taking care of your liver can lower your chances of acute liver failure. Below are some methods of prevention you should be aware of:
1. Stay away from alcohol.
If you choose to consume alcohol at all, do so in moderation. Moderation is key when it comes to alcohol use. Up to one drink per day for women; up to two for males. This way, you can reduce your chances of acute liver failure.
2. Avoid putting yourself in harm’s way.
For those who inject illicit drugs, get help. Do not exchange syringes with others. Use condoms when having sex. Make sure the place where you receive a tattoo or piercing is clean and safe.
3. Do not smoke. Smoking is bad for your health, so don’t do it.
4. Vaccinate yourself.
Ask your doctor about the hepatitis B vaccine if you have chronic liver disease, have a history of the disease or are at an elevated risk of developing it. Hepatitis A vaccines are also available.
5. Take only medications prescribed by a doctor or chemist.
Medications should be taken as prescribed. Take only the suggested dosage of medicines or any other drug, and don’t take more than that. Always make sure to ask your doctor if the drug is safe for you before taking it. Also tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking. Acute liver failure can occur while taking too much over-the-counter or natural drugs.
6. Do not come into contact with the bodily fluids of others. Hepatitis viruses can be disseminated by the use of contaminated needles or incorrect handling of bodily fluids. Shared razor blades and toothbrushes can also transfer disease.
7. Avoid mushrooms.
Don’t eat any mushrooms that you find in the wild. Many people have difficulty distinguishing hazardous mushrooms from those that are safe for consumption.
8. Use caution when using aerosol sprays. To avoid inhaling toxic fumes, always use an aerosol cleaner in a well-ventilated area or wear a face mask. When using pesticides, fungicides, paint, or any other potentially harmful substances, follow the same safety precautions. Product instructions should be properly followed.
9. Be cautious about what you put on your body. To protect your skin from pesticides and other hazardous chemicals, wear gloves, long sleeves, a hat, and a mask.
10. Keep your weight in check. As a result, obesity can induce nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can lead to the development of obesity-related liver conditions like cirrhosis.
When should you see a doctor?
Acute liver failure is a life-threatening condition that can occur abruptly in otherwise healthy people. It’s important to get medical assistance right away if you notice that your eyes or skin are turning yellow, if you feel pain in your upper abdomen, or if you see any other strange changes in your mental state, personality, or behavior. It is always better to notice conditions like this in time so as to receive treatment early and increase your chances of survival.
Diagnoses of acute liver failure.
In order to evaluate liver damage, a biopsy is a standard method of testing. A portion of your liver is removed and sent to a laboratory for testing. It is possible to reverse some liver damage that has occurred if it is discovered early enough. Damage to the liver can be repaired by the body or by medication.
Consult a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms. It is important to tell them if you have a history of alcohol misuse or genetic problems. For the detection of anomalies in the blood, particularly those that may indicate liver failure, various blood screening tests are available.
Treatment of acute liver failure.
The type of treatment you receive is determined by the stage of your illness.
Medications may be prescribed by your doctor. Surgery may be necessary if only a portion of your liver is affected. To check for liver disease, a doctor can do imaging tests on you.
It is possible for a healthy liver to regrow after it is damaged. A liver transplant may be required if the damage is extremely severe, as is the case with fast-acting acute liver failure.
The bottom line.
•Acute liver failure occurs when the liver’s capacity to function is unexpectedly compromised.
•Diarrhea and exhaustion are among the side effects of acute liver failure that can occur within hours of each other.
•As a life-threatening disorder, acute liver failure must be treated immediately by a qualified medical professional.
•You may be a candidate for a liver transplant if medical therapies don’t work.