Acute liver failure is a condition wherein the liver fails to function. The condition worsens at a rather rapid pace within days or weeks with increasing severity for patients who have pre-existing liver disease.
Acute liver failure is also known as a fulminant hepatic failure. Some of its possible complications include bleeding and increasing pressure on the brain. It requires hospitalization but depending on the severity of the case, the effects can be reversed. However, in extreme cases, a liver transplant is the only cure.
Symptoms of acute liver failure are as follows –
- Abdominal swelling
- Disorientation or confusion
- Yellowing of skin and eyeballs
- Pain in the upper right abdomen
Primary liver failure takes place when the cells of the liver are damaged to such an extent that they are no longer able to carry out their normal functions. Some of the reasons behind this include –
• Toxins – Some toxins such as carbon tetrachloride, industrial chemicals such as those used in waxes and varnishes, and wild mushroom Amanita phalloides are known to cause acute liver failure
• Autoimmune disease – Acute liver failure can also be triggered by autoimmune hepatitis which is a disease in which an individual’s immune system attacks the liver cells
• Herbal Supplements – These include ephedra, kava, pennyroyal, ephedra are associated with acute liver failure
• Hepatitis – Hepatitis A, B, E along with other viruses such as herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr virus, and cytomegalovirus are known to cause acute liver failure
• Prescription Medications – Some prescription medications are known to cause acute liver failure. These include antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
• Acetaminophen Overdose – Acetaminophen, also known as Tylenol, if consumed too much can cause acute liver failure. It can happen when either a single large dosage is administered or when several doses above the suggested limited are taken over a prolonged period. Individuals who have resorted to either of these two means should consult a physician immediately instead of waiting for signs of liver failure
Following the below-mentioned steps can surely aid in reducing the risk of liver failure –
• Timely medication – It needs to be ensured that the medicines are only taken as per the recommended dosage and not more
• Avoiding illicit behaviour – Avoid using drugs, sharing needles and smoking. Practice safe sex.
• Doctor’s consultation – The doctor needs to know of the medicines which are taken by the patient as even herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs can interfere with the drugs which are being taken for acute liver failure
• Vaccinations – Patients who have a history of chronic liver disease and any type of hepatitis must get themselves vaccinated
• Skin Protection – Exposure to any insecticides and toxic chemicals should be avoided by wearing gloves, mask and other protective gear
• Moderate alcohol consumption – Women of all ages and men older than 65 should restrict themselves to one drink a day. Young men should not take more than two drinks per day
Following are the treatment measures which are followed depending on the severity of the patient’s condition –
• By reversing poisoning – Acetaminophen overdose leads to acute liver failure. This is treated with a drug named acetylcysteine
• Relieving brain pressure – Acute liver failure causes fluid buildup in the brain which is known as ‘Cerebral oedema’. This condition can be offset by the use of medicines
• Liver transplant – This is a last-ditch effort wherein the damaged liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor.