Liver failure

Severe impairment of liver function that develops suddenly or at the final stages of a chronic liver disease. Because the liver breaks down toxins in the blood, liver failure causes the levels of the toxins to rise, affecting the functioning of other organs, particularly the brain. Liver failure may be acute or chronic. Symptoms of acute liver failure develop rapidly and include impaired memory, agitation, and confusion, followed by drowsiness. The functioning of other organs may become impaired, and the condition may lead to coma and death. Features of chronic liver failure develop much more gradually and include jaundice, itching, easy bruising and bleeding, a swollen abdomen due to accumulated fluid, red palms and, in males, gynaecomastia (enlarged breasts) and shrunken testes. Chronic liver failure may suddenly deteriorate into acute liver failure. Acute liver failure requires urgent hospital care. Although no treatment can repair damage that has already occurred in acute and chronic liver failure, certain measures, such as prescribing diuretic drugs to reduce abdominal swelling, may be taken to reduce the severity of symptoms. Consumption of alcohol should cease in all cases. The prognoses for sufferers of chronic liver failure vary depending on the cause, but some people survive for many years. For acute liver failure, a liver transplant is necessary to increase the chances of survival.


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