What Are the First Signs of Liver Failure?

Excessive bruising is a symptom of liver failure.
Mental confusion is one possible symptom of liver failure.
Several types of liver disease: hepatic steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
Located in the upper right quadrant of the body, the liver is responsible for over 500 bodily functions.
Article Details
  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 19 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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The liver is a vital organ located in the upper right-hand side of the abdomen. The liver performs a variety of functions within the human body, such as purifying blood, assisting with the digestion of food, and diluting or removing harmful chemicals that are introduced into the body. The human body cannot function properly without a healthy liver. There are a number of signs of liver failure, including jaundicing of the skin or nails, fatigue and weakness, and abdominal pain, as well as fluid accumulation, mental confusion, and internal bleeding as the disease progresses.

One of the functions of the human liver is to produce and secrete bile into the intestines. The bile then helps to digest fat that is consumed in the daily diet. The liver also acts as a filter for harmful chemicals which are introduced into the body such as drugs, alcohol, or ammonia. The liver either changes the harmful chemicals into harmless ones or removes them altogether and then secretes them back out with the bile to be eliminated with the next bowel movement.

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Many of the early signs of liver failure are general in nature and can be mistaken for signs of a variety of other illnesses or diseases. A general sense of fatigue and weakness, for example, is one of the early symptoms of liver failure. Although pain in the abdomen usually accompanies liver disease, the pain may not be severe or constant during the early stages of liver failure. Any signs of liver failure should be taken very seriously as the human body depends on the liver to function normally.

As liver disease progresses, more specific signs of liver failure may present themselves. Jaundicing of the skin or nails may appear as a result of the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood due to the liver's inability to function properly. When liver failure reaches the more critical stages, the body will begin to accumulate fluid in the legs, known as edema, and in the abdomen, known as ascites. The inability to concentrate and/or mental confusion, along with kidney failure and gastrointestinal bleeding, are also repercussions of more advanced liver failure.

The liver may fail due to hereditary problems or defects that were present at the time of birth. More commonly, however, liver failure is the result of toxic chemicals that have introduced in the body. Medications, illegal drugs, and alcohol are the most common culprits. If caught early on, the liver can repair itself if the person abstains from the cause of the problem. If, however, the liver has reached the point of cirrhosis, then the liver will eventually fail completely.

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