The liver, a gland of the digestive system, produces bile, which helps break down fats in foods. The liver acts as a chemical processing plant that helps produce essential proteins and remove harmful artifacts of the digestive process. The organ also regulates glycogen storage, decomposes excess red blood cells, and produces hormones. The functioning of the liver can be altered in several ways, each of which can cause symptoms of liver failure. Cirrhosis damages the organ and can cause excessive scar tissue. Factors that cause cirrhosis include excessive alcohol use, chronic viral infections such as hepatitis B and C, autoimmune diseases, excessive copper accumulation, infections, and certain medications. Herbal supplements, metabolic disease, cancer, shock, and sepsis can also contribute to liver failure. While some liver-damaging conditions are unavoidable, others can be controlled. Individuals can help keep their livers healthy by avoiding excessive alcohol and activities that increase the risk of contracting hepatitis. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle will also protect the liver.
The damage that leads to liver failure cannot be undone. Once scar tissue has formed, it can only be maintained or grow worse. Liver failure is progressive, occurs in stages, and can go unnoticed until it advances to acute liver failure. The early stages of liver failure resemble other conditions and include general symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and a general feeling of not being well.
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