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Acute Liver Failure Symptoms,Causes & Complications

Acute liver failure is a condition, in which the liver stops functioning. The surprising factor that is associated with this condition is that it happens to a person who has no prior history of liver disease. It is also known as a fulminant hepatic failure. The reason which this disease happens is a hepatitis virus or drugs like acetaminophen.

Acute liver failure can cause critical complications, which can include excessive bleeding and increased pressure in nerves. This condition requires a medical emergency and proper assistance from doctors.

Know Liver Transplant Cost in India here.

Symptoms of Acute Liver Failure

A person suffering from Acute Liver Failure(ALF) becomes sick rapidly. The reason why this disease is called Acute Liver Failure(ALF) is that it takes only about a week or maybe less to have a complete liver failure. Some common symptoms of  Acute Liver Failure(ALF) are:

    • Fatigue
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea
    • Appetite loss
    • Blood vomiting
    • Fluid in abdomen
    • Jaundice
    • Scleral icterus(yellowing of eyes) 

A person who is suffering from ALF has quite subtle symptoms, like memory loss, nausea, minor changes in personality, slight memory lapses, etc, at first. That later developed into severe complications like a full-blown hepatic coma in a very short interval of time.

Causes of Acute Liver Failure

A person might develop Acute Liver Failure when his liver cells get damaged completely and the liver stops functioning. There could be many possible causes of Acute liver failure(ALF):

Overdose of Acetaminophen: Acetaminophen is a liver toxin that is intrinsic and dose-dependent. In any case, if a person takes enough acetaminophen, commonly called paracetamol, might suffer from Acute Liver Failure. This can easily happen from one large dose of acetaminophen. Since, commonly, people opt for paracetamol when they have a common cold or other flu symptoms. But, imagine how the severe flu might develop into Acute liver failure(ALF) with an overdose of acetaminophen.

Hepatitis: Earlier hepatitis B was considered to be one of the major causes of acute liver failure(ALF), but with time its occurrence has been declining. People who acquire Hepatitis B from vertical transmission are at a high risk of reactivation from previous hepatitis. This reactivation can further develop into an illness resembling ALF. Therefore, it advised vaccinating the close members of Hepatitis B patients. Doctors prefer a treatment with nucleoside analogs to suppress this viral and counter the ALF.ALF

If you talk about Hepatitis A, then the virus is usually transmitted through a fecal-oral route and may occur at irregular intervals. This can cause the liver to swell and ultimately develop Acute Liver Failure. Hepatitis A virus can cause a severe illness in the liver but does not cause chronic liver problems. This is usually spread through contaminated food and water or through direct contact with persons who are already infected. So, the risk of getting Acute Liver Failure is higher with Hepatitis

Metabolic disorder: Certain metabolic diseases might affect the functioning of the liver and cause Acute Liver Failure. One common metabolic disease that causes ALF is Wilson disease. This is a hereditary disorder that is caused due to accumulation of copper in the liver. Wilson disease affects adults, children, and young adults. Acute Liver Failure has various characteristics- patients suffering from Acute Liver Failure might have concomitant anemia which causes red blood cells destruction. Or, they might be suffering from the Kaiser-Flesheir ring, which is a green-brown pigmented ring developed at a junction of the white part of an eye. When Acute Liver Failure develops it is hard to forecast the likely outcome for recovery. Apart from the Wilson disease, other metabolic diseases are associated with  Acute Liver Failure. For example, antitrypsin deficiency, tyrosinemia, alpha-1, etc. These metabolic diseases are common in children but quite rare in adults.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms are called “death caps” as they contain high amounts of liver toxins. In scientific terms mushrooms known as Amanita phalloides, may cause severe damage to the liver. Although they are edible varieties of mushrooms, having them can result in severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain. The pain can begin in about 8-16 hours after eating these mushrooms. Hence, it is advised to avoid eating wild mushrooms in your diet plan, because of their life-threatening effects

Complications in Acute Liver Failure(ALF):

A person suffering from Acute Liver Failure has to deal with numerous complications that come in his path of recovery. Complications like- bleeding and bleeding disorders can happen, because a failed liver is not able to clot enough blood which ultimately results in bleeding. One of the scariest complications that come along with Acute Liver Failure is kidney failure. As in most cases, it is found that kidney failure occurs as an aftereffect of liver failure. So, it is our major responsibility to take care that we do not go overboard with excessive intake of acetaminophen. People suffering from Acute Liver Failure are more expediently to develop blood, respiratory and urinary infections. Also, one should always take care that excessive consumption of fluid can build up pressure in the brain which can lead to cerebral edema and mental confusion.

Prevention of Acute Liver Failure: One can always put some efforts to prevent the risk of Acute Liver failure for example:

  • If you have chronic liver disease, you can always go for vaccination.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Follow your medications properly.
  • Avoid contact with infectious people.
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced weight.

Also read: Life After Having a Liver Transplant

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