Acute liver failure occurs when your liver rapidly loses its ability to function. More commonly, liver failure develops slowly over the course of years. But in acute liver failure, liver failure develops in a matter of days.
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Prolonged alcohol consumption
- Hemochromatosis (an inherited disorder that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose.
- Viruses including hepatitis A, B, and C (especially in children).
- Reactions to certain prescription and herbal medications.
- Ingestion of poisonous wild mushrooms.
The initial symptoms of liver failure can be due to many conditions. Because of this, liver failure may be initially difficult to diagnose. Early symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
However, as liver failure progresses, the symptoms become more serious, requiring urgent care. These symptoms include:
- Bleeding easily
- Swollen abdomen
- Mental disorientation or confusion (known as hepatic encephalopathy)
If detected early enough, acute liver failure caused by an overdose of acetaminophen can sometimes be treated and its effects reversed. Likewise, if a virus causes liver failure, supportive care can be given at a hospital to treat the symptoms until the virus runs its course. In these cases, the liver will sometimes recover.
For liver failure that is the result of long-term deterioration, the initial treatment goal may be to save whatever part of the liver is still functioning. If this is not possible, then a liver transplant is required. Fortunately, liver transplant is a common procedure that is often successful.