Doctors may refer to fulminant hepatitis as fulminant hepatic failure or acute liver failure. Regardless of the name, this state of rapid and severe liver failure can be fatal. Liver failure occurs when liver cells are damaged and cease to function. Fulminant hepatitis can occur in people with previously diagnosed liver disease, but it may also happen in people without any known liver problems. The deterioration of the liver may happen over days or weeks, depending on the cause.
Medical professionals cannot identify the cause of many cases of fulminant hepatitis. The most frequent known cause is an overdose of a non-NSAID over-the-counter pain reliever. One excessive dose can cause immediate liver failure, or too-large doses spread over a few days can cause liver failure at a slower rate. An overwhelming dose of this medication can damage the liver beyond repair.
The Epstein-Barr and herpes simplex viruses can trigger viral-induced fulminant hepatitis. Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the immune system attacks liver cells. Certain cancers can form tumors that start in or spread to the liver. Budd-Chiari syndrome damages veins and will cause liver failure if there are blockages to the veins around the liver. Wilson’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes copper to build up in the liver and other organs. Once the copper build-up reaches a certain point, the liver can no longer function.
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