Liver failure is the most serious disease of the liver, in which the organ is not able to perform its main functions, such as synthesis of coagulation factors, metabolism and elimination of toxins from the body, giving rise to a series of serious complications such as problems of coagulation, cerebral edema or renal failure.
According to the duration and evolution of symptoms, liver failure can be classified in:
- acute: it occurs suddenly, in days or weeks, generally in healthy people, without any previous illness in the liver. In general, it is caused by the hepatitis virus or by the incorrect use of some medications, such as paracetamol;
- Chronicle: The symptoms can take months or even years to appear, and they occur when the liver suffers constant aggressions due to situations such as alcohol abuse, hepatitis or fatty liver.
When there is a suspicion of liver failure, it is important to consult a hepatologist so that the diagnosis is made, the cause is identified and the appropriate treatment is started, which may include the use of drugs or liver transplantation.
The initial symptoms of acute liver failure can be similar to those of acute hepatitis, and can develop in days or weeks, following the main symptoms:
- Yellow skin and mucous membranes;
- Hinchazón of the abdomen;
- Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen;
- Hinchazón de las legs;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Loss of appetite;
- weight loss;
- Sensation of general malaise;
- Sensation of satiety even after a light meal;
- Excessive sweating;
- Mental confusion or disorientation;
- Aliento with sweet smell;
- Orina dark;
- Heces clear or blanquecinas;
- Comezón in the body.
In the presence of these symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible or to go to the nearest hospital, as the illness can quickly worsen and cause hemorrhages or serious problems in the kidneys or the brain, putting at risk of life.
The diagnosis of liver failure is made based on the clinical history and through analysis of blood that measures the time of clotting and liver enzymes such as ALT, AST, GGT, alkaline phosphatase and bilirubin. In addition, it may be necessary to perform imaging tests such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, as well as a liver biopsy to verify why this organ is not working. See all the tips to evaluate the functioning of the liver.
In cases where there is no established cause, the doctor can also request the measurement of paracetamol levels in blood, the performance of a toxicological test and a serology test for viruses.
To find out if you may be suffering from liver failure, check what you are feeling next:
Liver failure is caused by situations that can interfere with the functioning of the liver and alter its functions. Although it can occur in healthy people, liver failure is more frequent in the following cases:
- Frequent use or doses higher than the recommended ones of paracetamol;
- Use of medicinal plants like kava-kava, ephedra, casida or poleo;
- Infection by hepatitis virus type A, B, C or E;
- Use of medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or anticonvulsants;
- Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages;
- Liver cirrhosis;
- Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus or herpes simplex infection;
- Budd-Chiari syndrome, which can cause blockage in the veins of the liver;
- Wilson’s illness, where there is an accumulation of copper in the liver;
- Autoimmune diseases, such as autoimmune hepatitis;
- Poisoning by el hongo salvaje amanita phalloides;
- liver cancer;
- Generalized infection.
In some cases, this illness may not have an apparent cause. Similarly, acute liver failure can also occur in the third trimester of pregnancy when the woman has preeclampsia, which is why it is important to have medical follow-up during pregnancy.
The treatment for liver failure depends on the causes and level of the illness and must be carried out in an intensive care unit so that the person is constantly monitored. Asimism, could be recommended:
1. Use of medication
The drugs that the hepatologist can prescribe to treat liver failure depend on the cause of the illness; for example, if it is produced by an intoxication by paracetamol, a hongo salvaje (amanita phalloides), if you must use drugs to reverse its effects, such as n-acetylcysteine and silibinin, if it causes an infection, it must be treated with antibiotics or antimycotics.
Asimismo, the doctor can also indicate other medicines according to the illness and symptoms presented.
2. Making changes to the diet
The diet for liver failure must be carried out under the supervision of a hepatologist and a clinical nutritionist, and that the recommendations depend on the health status of the person and the phase in which the illness is found.
In general, it is necessary to control the amount of liquids ingested; restrict the consumption of salt to less than 2 g a day, to avoid swelling or accumulation of liquids in the abdomen, and not to consume alcoholic beverages, as they can worsen the symptoms and worsen the illness.
3. Liver transplantation
Liver transplantation is a surgery to remove the liver that does not work properly and replace it with a healthy liver from a deceased donor or a part of a healthy liver from a living donor.
This treatment, when carried out in time, can restore the function of the liver; However, it is not indicated in all cases, such as in liver failure caused by hepatitis, and the virus can be lodged in the transplanted liver.
The complications of hepatic insufficiency can arise immediately after the first symptoms of the illness or when it is in more advanced stages, and include:
- cerebral edema;
- Gastrointestinal bleeding;
- Infections by bacteria or fungi;
- Pulmonary edema;
- Renal insufficiency.
These complications must be treated immediately, as if they are not revived or controlled in time, they can put life at risk.
Some measures can help to avoid or reduce the risk of damage to the liver that can cause liver failure such as:
- Avoid taking medications without medical advice;
- Avoid using medicinal plants without guidance from a health professional;
- Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages in excess;
- Vaccinate against hepatitis;
- Practice safe sex;
- Avoid the use of illicit drugs and shared drinks;
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Apart from this, when using insecticides and other toxic chemical products, it is important to cover the skin with gloves, wide-sleeved clothing, hat and mask, to avoid the absorption of products by the skin that can cause liver failure.
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