What are the signs of a dying liver or Acute Liver failure & What are its Causes?

Feb 17, 2023 by Adhip

Acute liver failure is a condition of a dying liver in which the liver function deteriorates rapidly, by showing signs generally within days or weeks. It’s often triggered by viruses like hepatitis virus or certain medications like acetaminophen, and usually affects people with no previous history of liver problems.

Acute liver failure, a condition also known as fulminant hepatic failure, can cause dangerous consequences such as bleeding and brain swelling. It is a critical situation and requires urgent hospitalization.

Acute liver failure can sometimes be reversed through proper treatment, depending on the cause. Nonetheless, a transplant may be the only cure for some cases.

Signs of a dying liver

Acute liver failure or dying liver can be of a wide range of indications and signs, some of them being:

  • Discoloration of your skin and eyes in a yellowish hue (jaundice)
  • Experiencing pain on the upper right side of your abdomen or swelling of your belly.
  • Nausea & Vomiting
  • A sense of uneasiness-malaise. It is a common sign for them to feel confused and disoriented, along with feelings of extreme fatigue and sleepiness when having a condition dying liver.
  • People with certain ailments may have breath that smells musty or sweet. In addition, they may also experience trembling or tremors.

Causes by which signs of a dying liver

Potential culprits behind the signs of a dying liver are:

  • An overdose of acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.) is now the primary cause of acute liver failure in the United States. It’s also known as paracetamol in other countries outside of America.
  • It’s paramount to get medical attention as soon as possible if you or someone you know has taken an overdose of acetaminophen.
  • Different types of prescription drugs, such as antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and anticonvulsants, can lead to sudden liver failure.
  • Taking herbal drugs and supplements, such as kava, ephedra, skullcap, and pennyroyal have been linked to cases of acute liver failure. Therefore it’s important to be mindful of the potential risks associated with these herbal remedies.
  • Acute liver failure can be of several viruses such as hepatitis A, B & E, Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex virus. Hepatitis is one of the most common illnesses among them.
  • Autoimmune hepatitis is an immune system malfunction wherein it mistakenly attacks the liver cells leading to inflammation & damage. So, this can be a cause of liver failure.
  • Vascular diseases, like Budd-Chiari syndrome, can disrupt the flow of blood in the veins of your liver. This might result in an acute failure of the organ and other medical complications.
  • Acute liver failure is not a common symptom of metabolic diseases, however, disorders like Wilson’s disease and acute fatty liver of pregnancy can have this as one of their rarer outcomes.
  • Cancer that originates or metastasizes to the liver can lead to liver failure.
  • Acute liver failure can be by excessive exercise in a hot climate, leading to heat stroke.


To prevent yourself from getting acute liver failure, it is essential to take good care of your liver to prevent signs of a dying liver.

  • It’s essential to follow the instructions on any medication you take – especially acetaminophen. Have a look at the dosage information provided on the package insert and make sure to not exceed it.
  • It is essential to inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies. Therefore, these can potentially interact with prescription drugs and could affect their performance.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption is good, if at all. It is best to stick to a maximum of one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men, as advised for adults with healthy lifestyles.
  • If you use injection drugs, make sure to get help and never share needles. Put on condoms during intercourse to protect yourself
  • Vaccinate yourself if you have a history of chronic liver disease, previous hepatitis infection, or any other heightened risk of hepatitis.
  • To prevent the spread of hepatitis, it is crucial to stay away from contact with other individuals’ blood & body fluids.
  • Exercise caution when using any aerosol sprays. Ventilate the room or wear a mask to safeguard yourself and others. 
  • Being overweight can increase your risk of a serious condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. As well as it can show signs of dying liver.

Take away

Signs of a Dying liver can progress rapidly in people who appear to be in good health. Making it an extremely dangerous condition. If you or someone close to you experience any visible yellowing of the eyes/skin, abdominal tenderness, or changes in mental state/personality/behavior – reach out to your doctor immediately. Don’t wait, act now.

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