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Liver Failure
Overview

Liver Failure

As the name suggests, liver failure is described as the inability of the liver to do its job. The main functions of the liver include detoxification that rids the body of toxins and the generation of various substances like carbohydrates, fats, bile (helps in digestion), and proteins. The liver also plays a role in the production of vitamins. Failure can occur abruptly (acute) or over the course of many years (chronic).

Main Functions of the Liver

Main Functions of the Liver

1. Detoxification that rids the body of toxins
2. Generation of various substances like carbohydrates, fats, bile (helps in digestion), and proteins.
3. Production of vitamins.

Failure can occur abruptly (acute) or over the course of many years (chronic).

Acute liver failure

Acute liver failure

Causes:

1. Toxins
2. Poisonous mushrooms
3. Tylenol (acetaminophen) overdose
4. Excessive alcohol
5. Infections
6. Blood loss

Symptoms

1. Confusion or mental deterioration
2. Bleeding
3. Failure of other organs
4. Abnormal levels of glucose and electrolytes

Treatment

Treatment depends on what caused the initial insult however a liver transplant may be indicated if the liver is damaged beyond repair.

Chronic liver failure

Chronic liver failure

Causes

1. Hepatitis viruses
2. Long-term ingestion of alcohol
3. Certain genetic conditions that cause excessive minerals in the body (Wilson’s disease or hemochromatosis).

Consequences

As the liver becomes more damaged, it undergoes a process called cirrhosis which means the liver has excess scar tissue. This tissue prevents the liver from doing its job and also disrupts the blood that flows through the organ. In many cases, this chronic process can increase an individual’s likelihood of developing liver cancer.

Symptoms

1. Swelling all over the body, especially around the abdomen. confusion, bleeding, and engorgement of blood vessels on the skin. Men can complain of a decreased libido, breast enlargement, and shrinking of the testes.
2. Confusion
3. Bleeding and engorgement of blood vessels on the skin.
4. Men can complain of a decreased libido, breast enlargement, and shrinking of the testes.

Treatment

Treatment is centered on dealing with the underlying causes whether that means treating the infection or stopping alcohol ingestion. If the liver is damaged beyond a critical point, transplantation may be needed.

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