Liver failure, aka hepatic failure, occurs when your liver cells are damaged to such an extent that they’re no longer able to function. Your liver can take months, or even years, to fail due to deterioration. This is what’s known as chronic liver failure.
Or hepatic failure can occur in a matter of days, which is entitled acute liver failure. Acute liver failure is also referred to as fulminant hepatic failure and it’s a health care emergency that requires immediate attention.
Acute liver failure’s rapid deterioration of liver function is an uncommon condition. Hepatic failure that develops slowly over many years is far more common.
One of the first symptoms of acute liver failure is inexplicable tenderness in the upper right area of your abdomen. As your hepatic failure progresses, you’ll likely experience some of these other symptoms:
- loss of appetite
- nausea & vomiting
- difficulty concentrating
- disorientation, confusion
Hepatitis can cause upper right abdomen tenderness as well.
Acute hepatic failure often causes some potentially serious complications, such as:
- cerebral hypoxia
- cerebral edema ~ excessive brain fluid
- kidney failure ~ especially acetaminophen toxicity
- bleeding disorders ~ insufficient liver produced clotting factors may cause hematemesis
- infections ~ increased risk of blood infection, respiratory infection & urinary tract infection
Cerebral edema is a primary cause of death in those suffering from acute liver failure.
Your abdominal tenderness symptoms of liver failure has many potential causes, including:
- liver cancer
- heat stroke
- viral hepatitis A, B & E
- adult onset Still’s disease
- illicit drugs ~ ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine
- viruses ~ Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes
- toxins ~ poisonous wild mushroom, dry cleaning solvents
- kava, ephedra, skullcap, pennyroyal, ginseng, chaparral herbal supplements
- liver vein vascular disease ~ portal vein thrombosis, Budd-Chiari syndrome
- acetaminophen, aka paracetamol, toxicity ~ either too much at once or smaller doses with chronic liver disease
- autoimmune disease ~ autoimmune hepatitis in which your immune system attacks liver cells, causing inflammation &damage
- metabolic disease ~ Wilson’s disease, Reye’s syndrome, fructose intolerance, galactosemia, tyrosinemia, acute fatty liver of pregnancy
- prescription drugs ~ certain antibiotics, NSAIDs, antivirals, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, cholesterol lowering drugs, immunosuppressants
A high percentage of acute liver failure cases are caused by acetaminophen overdose.
Besides an overdose of acetaminophen, an otherwise safe dose can potentially cause liver failure when coupled with routine consumption of alcohol because alcohol depletes intrahepatic glutathione reserves. And you don’t need to be an alcoholic for this type of failure, couple drinks a day will do.
Liver failure requires emergency treatment. So if you experience upper right abdominal tenderness, get with a health care provider ASAP.
Initially, hepatic failure treatment will attempt to reverse any toxic effects, relieve any excess brain fluid and stop any bleeding. Unfortunately, many cases of liver failure can’t be reversed and a liver transplant is the only option for keeping you alive.
Once again, liver failure is an emergency. So it’s always best to have any upper right abdomen tenderness diagnosed and treated by a health care professional ASAP.
You can reduce your chances of ever having an acute liver crisis by taking healthy care of your liver. This means:
- get vaccinated if at risk for viral hepatitis
- following medication instructions to the letter
- don’t allow insecticides, other toxic chemicals to get on your skin
- keep alcohol consumption at a minimum, or not at all if taking acetaminophen
- maintain an healthy weight to avoid nonalcoholic fatty liver disease caused by obesity
- consume a healthy diet predominantly consisting of a variety of fruits and vegetables & limit intake high fat foods
- wear a mask when using sprays, particularly aerosol cleaners, insecticides, fungicides, paint, other toxic chemicals
- keep your health care provider informed about OTC drugs and herbal medicines you take to prevent drug interactions
And don’t live a unhealthy to your liver existence because you figure you’ll just pop in and get an emergency transplant treatment should the need arise. Not so fast, because hundreds of thousands are on a waiting list ahead of you.