The Cause and Effects of Liver Failure

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorCollege, Undergraduate February 2008

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The liver is the largest organ in the body. The liver is a vital organ. Without it we would not be able to live. Apart from the brain, it is the most complex organ in the body.

It has a wide range of functions and acts very much like a factory. One of its most amazing features is its regenerative power. Some 9/10ths of the liver can be cut away and providing the remaining 1/10th is healthy, the liver will grow back to its original size The liver produces a number of different substances which are vital in order for healthy growth and development. For example, the liver produces substances which aid with blood clotting. The prothrombin it produces keeps people from hemorrhaging to death. The liver cells also make proteins which are carried in the blood which help to control the fluid levels in all parts of the body.

The liver stores energy in the form of glycogen which is sugar. In the liver you will find copper, iron, and vitamins. Besides this, the liver controls many hormones within the body and stores glucose to help with blood sugar levels when needed. The liver also filters many drugs and by doing so chemically changes them to be used effectively by the body.

As a filter system, the liver is tops. It removes many unwanted and unneeded substances from the body. Bile is produced by the liver cells and they play an active role in the digestion of fats.

Disease is also controlled by the liver. Infections which arise in the intestine are kept at bay by the liver.

With the liver playing such an important role in fighting so many diseases, and functioning on a complex level, it is no wonder that liver failure is so serious.

Liver failure can result from any type of liver disorder, injury, or disease. The liver can suffer complete failure from alcohol, Ecstasy, or one of many viruses. Though a large portion of the liver must be damaged before liver failure occurs, this process may develop rapidly over days or weeks. It can also happen gradually over months or years and is known as chronic liver failure. Chronic liver failure is commonly caused from chronic hepatitis. Acute liver failure can be caused from chronic or acute hepatitis.

No one knows why a particular virus or drug causes chronic hepatitis in some people but not in others. No one knows why it is so severe in some people. In some people there appears to be an overactive immune system response that is responsible for the inflammation. It's as if the body is attacking its own tissues. There are a group of symptoms which alert the doctor to hepatitis, cirrhosis, and/or potential liver failure.

A person with liver failure usually has yellow skin. They have a tendency to have low hemoglobin due to internal bleeding. A person in liver failure is very ill. They suffer weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss, nausea, vomiting and can even die.

Although these symptoms indicate a person has liver trouble, blood tests are used to conclusively diagnose complete liver failure.

Treatment for liver failure depends on the reason why the liver failed. The urgency of the treatment also depends on whether the liver failure is acute or chronic. The treatment, however, is nearly the same. The person is placed on a special diet. No salt intake so the person won't retain fluids. Alcohol is completely avoided because it can make the damage worse.

People with liver failure are hospitalized as a rule and placed on bed rest. Precautions are taken to stop the spread of the virus through body fluids if a virus has caused the liver failure. The patient in the hospital is monitored very carefully through lab tests to alert the doctor to any worsening of the liver's condition.

Liver failure is fatal if it is left untreated or if the liver disease is progressive. Although liver transplants, if successful and performed soon enough, can restore a person to normal health, there is still a ten percent chance that a person in liver failure will not survive the surgery. Liver transplantation is suitable for only a small number of people with liver failure, so severe liver failure is often ultimately fatal.

Because of the need for organs for liver transplantation, organ banks encourage organ donors to make known their request to donate the liver if it can be used by a person awaiting a liver transplant. Without available organs to transplant, no one in severe liver failure can survive.