Liver Failure Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

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The liver is one of the most important of all our vital organs. It is responsible for cleansing and, without its regular function, we are certain to die. The liver can be damaged by many diseases, and also by alcohol and drug abuse, and it is essential that we keep an eye on the health and function of the liver at all times. Liver failure is a very serious condition and normally takes place very gradually across a number of years. In this article we will talk about liver failure symptoms, the causes of liver failure, and how it can be treated.


Early stage liver failure symptoms can be associated with a number of conditions. This is why it is vital that you seek medical advice urgently if you recognise any of the symptoms listed below:

As you can see, these are quite general symptoms, but they can be indicative of one of many conditions including liver failure. The following more serious and specific symptoms may come about as degeneration of the liver progresses:

  • Swollen stomach and abdomen
  • Bleeding
  • Jaundice
  • Extreme tiredness and lethargy
  • Confusion and mental disorientation

If left untreated the patient may also fall into a coma. It is absolutely vital you seek medical help if you suffer from any of the above.


The causes of chronic liver failure, the type more commonly seen, can be many. Acute liver failure, a rare form of the disease that comes about very rapidly, has its own specific causes. The following are some of the more common causes of chronic liver failure:

Liver failure can also be associated with Hemochromatosis, a condition that leaves the body storing too much iron and which is generally hereditary in nature.

Acute liver failure can be caused by the following:

  • Overdose of many prescription drugs
  • Hepatitis A, B and C
  • Reaction to herbal medicines and other medicines
  • Eating poisonous wild mushrooms

How Is Liver Failure Treated?

Liver failure can be treated, but it is best done so if diagnosed at an early stage. Even acute liver failure treatment is successful in some cases. The liver is capable of recovery by itself with attendant medical care, especially in the case of viral infections. There is also the option of a liver transplant – a commonly performed procedure these days with good success rates – if the damage to the liver is too advanced to allow the organ to regenerate.


There are several ways in which you can minimise the risk of contracting liver failure, and the following tips are all sensible courses of action:

  • Make sure you eat a sensible balanced diet
  • Keep your alcohol intake moderate
  • Make sure you are vaccinated against hepatitis
  • Use prescription drugs exactly as they are prescribed
  • Pay attention to personal cleanliness
  • Use protection during sexual activity
  • If a drug user, refrain from sharing needles
  • Never share personal toiletry
  • Do not handle blood

By following these common-sense tips you are helping to keep the risk of liver failure as low as you can.

How Long Can You Live With Acute Liver Failure?

Acute liver failure, which occurs in a matter of a couple of days, is very difficult to detect at first. Chronic liver failure, which develops over several years, will eventually lead to death. Sufferers from acute liver failure can die within a matter of days or weeks, and it depends entirely upon the individual and the circumstances of the case.

What Is A Liver Failure Diet?

As the liver processes all the protein we take into our bodies, failure of the liver means that we can no longer handle the same amounts. This means we have to regulate and plan a diet very carefully. You need to take in carbohydrates to replace the calories that you were gaining from protein. You will also need to lessen the salt content, and eat low salt foods. Avoid the likes of bacon – heavy in salt – and processed, packaged foods that are also salt-rich, and look to fish as a sensible choice as it is low in protein. You can still eat the food you like – steak, for instance – but it is sensible to start eating smaller meals, more often. You must avoid alcohol at all costs; the liver processes alcohol and can no longer do so if it is failing.

Can Liver Failure Cause Brown Urine?

Brown urine is a regular symptom of liver failure, and it is caused when the liver is not processing a substance in the blood called bilirubin. If you should pass brown urine it is essential that you see a doctor straight away.

We hope that this article has helped you to understand the causes and symptoms of liver failure, how it can be treated and what to do to prevent it.

Written By Miranda Stephens

Miranda Stephens, MD is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Stephens earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado.She completed a residency in Family Medicine at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In 2006 Dr. Stephens was chosen for Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

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