Liver failure is a rare condition that occurs when the liver loses its ability to function with no other liver disease present. The main functions of the liver are to rid the body of toxins and generate substances like carbohydrates, fats, bile, 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). Acute liver failure can occur due to a health condition, such as hepatitis or an autoimmune disease, or from medication. Acetaminophen is particularly hard on the liver and ingesting too much can cause the liver to fail. Acute liver failure (ALF) is a life-threatening condition that can progress rapidly and lead to multi-organ failure and death. While the incidence of ALF is rare with only 2000 cases in the United States a year, it is a serious condition that needs to be treated in a medical center as soon as possible.
Liver failure can cause swelling all over the body, especially around the abdomen, bleeding, and engorgement of blood vessels on the skin. Men can complain of a decreased libido, breast enlargement, and shrinking of the testes. Other symptoms of liver failure are:
- Jaundice or yellowing of the skin and eyeballs
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
- Ascites or swelling of the abdomen
- Feeling unwell
- Musty or sweet odor in the breath
If you are concerned you are in liver failure, especially when experiencing any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.