About Liver Failure

The liver performs functions that are critical to our overall health and wellness, turning the vitamins and minerals in our diets into substances the body can use – and releasing those substances to our cells when they are needed. The liver also helps eliminate toxins from the bloodstream.

Many conditions and factors can cause the liver to fail. These include:

  • Liver diseases including:
    • Hepatitis
    • Liver cysts
    • Liver cirrhosis and primary biliary cirrhosis
    • Fatty liver
    • Bile duct diseases
    • Hemochromatosis
    • Ascites
    • Sclerosing cholangitis
    • Wilson’s disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Genetic conditions
  • Overuse of acetaminophen (This is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.)

Liver failure can occur quickly (acute) or over a period of years (chronic). People whose livers are failing may experience symptoms that include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Swelling in the abdomen, legs, and feet due to excess fluid
  • Severe itchiness
  • Fever
  • Vomiting blood
  • Black, tarry stool
  • Abnormally shaped (“clubbed”) fingertips and fingernails
  • Substantial weight loss that cannot be attributed to anything else
  • Excessive bleeding and bruising