Liver failure can fall under two categories - acute liver failure and chronic liver failure. While acute liver failure is less common and tends to occur in those who haven’t previously had liver disease, chronic liver failure develops slower and is typically a result of liver disease.

We’re going to take you through what you need to know about liver failure, including what liver failure is and the causes of liver failure.

What is liver failure?

In short, liver failure refers to your liver having lost all or some of its functions [1]. It’s a serious condition that requires immediate medical care.

There are two forms of liver failure:

  • Chronic liver failure is usually the end result of liver disease - this type of liver failure happens over a long period of time.

  • Acute liver failure can come about quickly, making it slightly difficult to detect.

What causes liver failure?

Acute liver failure is less common than chronic liver failure - it can occur in a matter of days or weeks. Once treated, it’s possible for acute liver failure to be reversed, though this depends on the cause [2].

Causes Associated With Acute Liver Failure

  • Autoimmune disease

An autoimmune disease is a disease in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.
Autoimmune hepatitis can cause your immune system to attack your liver cells - resulting in swelling and injury [3].

  • Prescription medications and herbal supplements

Herbal supplements and prescription medications can cause toxic liver disease. This happens when toxins begin to form while your liver attempts to process your blood [4].
Herbal supplements and medications which can cause this include (but are not limited to) antibiotics, anticonvulsants, kava and ephedra [4].

  • Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. This infection can be contracted by alcohol consumption, drug use, certain medications, and sexual contact.
Hepatitis can cause scarring of the liver and loss of liver function and is a common cause of acute liver failure [5].

  • Toxins

Toxins are associated with causing acute liver failure. There are many sources of toxins - including the wild mushroom: Amanita phalloides and the industrial chemical: Carbon tetrachloride [6].

Chronic liver failure usually occurs when the damage to your liver has built up over a period of time - this damage is a result of cirrhosis (a long-term liver disease).

Causes Associated With Chronic Liver Failure

  • Alcohol abuse

Your liver is capable of restoring itself, but excessive alcohol intake over many years can reduce your liver’s ability to regenerate. This can result in serious or permanent damage to your liver - including cirrhosis and chronic liver failure [7].

  • Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C causes inflammation in the liver, it can put people at great risk of developing chronic liver failure [8]. This disease is spread through the blood and can be contracted through sexual relations with someone with the infection or through needle sharing.

  • Fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease is usually a result of insulin resistance, high blood sugar, high levels of fat or obesity. This disease has the potential to cause liver inflammation, cirrhosis and ultimately liver failure [9].

The best way to find out more about your liver health is to take a blood test - this can be done by visiting your doctor or by using an at-home test.

LetsGetChecked’s at home Liver test focuses on key proteins and enzymes in the liver, providing you with an understanding of how your liver is performing. With LetsGetChecked’s at-home test, you can test your liver health at a time that suits you.