What Is the Connection Between Liver Failure and Kidney Failure?

Since the body can survive with only one kidney, a live donor may be possible for those in need of a kidney transplant.
The human liver is one organ that can have a section harvested from a living person.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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The primary connection between liver failure and kidney failure is that both conditions can lead to many of the same symptoms. They may also occur together when a patient has certain conditions. The kidney and liver function in similar ways, since each organ is a filter for various regions of the body and they each act to absorb toxins from the urine, digestive tract, and blood. This makes them especially prone to illness in individuals who engage in high-risk behaviors.

Both liver failure and kidney failure are more common in those who abuse certain substances. Individuals who use alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs are at a much higher risk of developing these conditions than those who don't. Eating a high fat diet and living a sedentary lifestyle also increase the risk. Both liver failure and kidney failure can often be avoided by exercising regularly and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Liver failure and kidney failure also exhibit many of the same symptoms. Urinary and digestive upset are common with both. Abdominal pain may also be present in both cases. Additional symptoms may include swelling, back pain, skin changes, itching, nausea, and changes in taste. This is due to toxic buildup in either case, since the organs are not properly able to filter wastes and chemicals from the body. Jaundice, or a noticeable yellow staining of the skin, can become apparent with either liver failure or kidney failure.

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Patients may receive dialysis both either liver failure or kidney failure in order to sustain their bodily functions until the underlying cause of illness can be cured, or until an organ transplant can be performed. Since the body can survive with only one kidney, a live donor may be possible for those in need of a kidney transplant. Live donors may also a be a possibility for liver transplant recipients because a small portion of healthy liver can be transplanted into the patient. This portion will eventually grow to full size and function as a full organ, and the donor's liver will eventually replenish itself.

Liver and kidney failure can both be fatal when not treated quickly. There are various causes for both, and one condition may eventually lead to the other as toxins accumulate in the body and begin to overload the system. Once deterioration of the organs has begun, a transplant may be needed even after the initial cause is resolved.

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Discuss this Article

anon349597
Post 4

I have liver inflammation and hyperactive urination. I only found out when the nurse asked if the doctor had requested a second liver and kidney function test. I didn't know they had done the first one. I thought I was only being tested for diabetes (I have Type 2).

When this second test came in, the result was inflammation of the liver. So I'm trying to get an appointment to see the doctor to find out first, why was I not told in the first place, and what are they going to do about it/or what should I do? I don't drink or take drugs. I just hate being left in limbo, especially when it concerns my body.

indigomoth
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - I don't think most people who make jokes about that mean to really comment on what it's like to have kidney or liver failure. I don't think real alcoholics make that kind of joke. It's the sort of thing that's funny because everyone knows how serious it actually is.

If anything, I think that kind of humor can reinforce safe behavior because if people are laughing at it, it's because they know it's wrong.

I think the reasons for kidney failure are usually disease, like heart conditions or diabetes. Occasionally an overdose of drugs can cause failure as well.

With liver failure it's more often alcohol or hepatitis.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@umbra21 - So many people make jokes about their liver and kidneys when they are drinking heavily, but I don't think it's particularly funny. I've had a sister go through kidney failure and it was the worst experience of my life, let alone hers.

It was a congenital thing, not because she had been mistreating her body, but no one in the close family was a match and she needed a transplant badly. She was extremely limited in what she could eat or drink and was confined to a hospital room most of the time.

Finally we found out a cousin was a match and was, thank God, willing to go through a transplant.

But kidney failure can mean death and so can liver failure. They aren't jokes.

umbra21
Post 1

I know in medical shows when someone has kidney failure the symptom showing it is usually brown urine, while jaundice is used for liver failure.

I'm not sure how likely it is that those are reliable (although jaundice is mentioned in the article) although the doctors in the shows always seem to know at a glance what the problem is!

I had a friend who was close to liver failure and didn't know it. He had been drinking a lot with his friends and had been feeling tired, but he thought it was just the hangovers.

When he went in for a checkup the doctor said his liver was down to only 30% functionality. So, don't expect to always have obvious symptoms, at least until you get to a point of no return.

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