Extreme impairment of liver function that arises suddenly (acute liver failure) or at the end stages of a chronic liver disease (chronic liver failure). As the liver breaks down toxins within the blood, liver failure makes the levels of the toxins to rise, disturbing the functioning of other organs, especially the brain.
Symptoms of acute liver failure progress swiftly; they can include agitation and confusion, impaired memory, followed by drowsiness. The functioning of other organs can also become impaired and the condition can lead to coma and even death.
Feature of chronic liver failure develop a lot more slowly. They include jaundice; easy bruising and bleeding; itching; ascites (swollen abdomen caused by a build-up of fluid); red palms; and in males, gynaecomastia (enlarged breasts) and shrunken testes. Chronic liver failure can quickly decline into acute liver failure.
Acute liver failure needs immediate hospital treatment and care. Although there is not a treatment that can repair the damage that has already taken place in chronic or acute liver failure, particular measures, like administering diuretic drugs to bring down the abdominal swelling, can be taken to ease the severity of symptoms. Consumption of alcohol should be stopped in all cases.
The outlook for those suffering with chronic liver failure differs depending on the cause, but certain people survive for a number of years. For both acute and chronic liver failure, a liver transplant is needed to increase the chances of survival.