Fact Checked

What are Symptoms of Liver Failure?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Liver failure occurs when the body’s liver can no longer function properly. This is often preceded by liver disease, which can have numerous symptoms. Liver failure, however, is marked by several symptoms, which taken together with blood tests and other medical exams indicate the liver’s function is impaired to an extraordinary extent.

One marked symptom of liver failure is jaundice. Jaundice is easy to note physically since it discolors the skin to a yellow or orange tint. The whites of the eyes may also appear yellowish. Jaundice is a sign of the liver’s inability to successfully excrete bilirubin from the body. Although many babies suffer form jaundice after birth, this is not generally a symptom of liver problems. However, jaundice in adults is always cause for concern.

Excessive bruising is a symptom of liver failure.
Excessive bruising is a symptom of liver failure.

People with liver failure may also bleed easily or bruise excessively. Platelet count may be reduced in those with a failing liver, which “thins” the blood, making it harder for the blood to coagulate if a cut or a blunt injury occurs. Lower platelet counts are also symptomatic of numerous other illnesses.

Ascites, the accumulation of large amounts of fluid in the abdominal cavity, are quite frequently the result of a liver in failure. In fact, an abnormally protruding stomach is often a sign of severe liver failure. Ascites may also be caused by a failing heart or other conditions, which should be ruled out.

Liver failure can lead to jaundice, easy bruising, and memory problems.
Liver failure can lead to jaundice, easy bruising, and memory problems.

People with liver problems may also have a reduction in their ability to think and remember. Overall, their health may be poor and they may be more susceptible to common illnesses. Liver issues can also cause significant fatigue, a general feeling of weakness, and loss of appetite or nausea.

If liver failure is untreated, symptoms progress resulting in possible seizures, disorientation, inability to speak, and impaired judgment. Failure of other major organs may occur since the body works cooperatively with each organ. Ultimately death will occur if medical intervention is either not feasible or is not sought. Many who have liver problems can partially arrest symptoms through treatment with medications. However, some with this condition require a liver transplant in order to recover.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I think I am having liver issues, and may be jaundiced. My skin is yellow toned, so its hard to tell. My eyes look like they have a very faint yellowish tint on the edges. I also have pee that's halfway from being normal yellow to cola colored, and stool so pale it's almost grey, but with a slight brownish tint.

I had some abdominal pans a few days ago, but they have subsided, and I have an appetite that I haven't had in about a week.

I honestly thought I was getting better until my skin and eyes changed today. (the skin change seems to be slight. My classmates thought I had been tanning)

I won't be able to see my family doctor until Friday. Can anyone tell me if it is safe to wait until then?


I recommend we all try to develop a healthy lifestyle, one that God intended for us to have. All these drugs aren't going to help. They often provide temporary relief, but doesn't reverse or restore the health problem. God is the healer. Follow His guidelines for a healthy body and mind.


I have Psoriasis and I have had a terrible virus for two weeks and I finished a week of antibiotics. Yesterday and for the past two mornings, I feel like my liver is failing when I wake up from sleeping for about two hours. Then it gets better.

Does anyone else ever feel bad after waking up? I've had this happen when I had hep c and a huge viral load, so that's why I think it's my liver. Is this possible or am I overly worried?


Thanks for this very honest, important, helpful website! From another patient with AIDS and worrisome liver symptoms.


My health has been damaged by treatment I had for back problems. I looked after my body, didn't drink alcohol, ate healthy and didn't like taking prescription drugs. Then I had a steroid epidural for back problems which my husband convinced me to have and I reacted badly right after and was in a bad way.

When I was confused from lack of sleep and pain, my husband verbally bullied me into taking more prescription drugs against my better judgment -- not in high doses; I couldn't take high doses.

My body was ill from the toxic drugs and I should have detoxed not thrown more drugs in. Eight months later after my health was getting worse, I developed bad health problems that stopped me from eating my good healthy foods.

I still couldn't sleep. I have pains and bowel problems. I have become housebound with liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney and digestive problems. It's getting worse. I am convinced the drugs have damaged my body with long term problems.


My mother is suffering from cancer and hepatitis c. Please tell me what I can do.


One answer: Do not ever drink alcohol as it is a killer. Your liver is too precious to destroy it with alcohol or drugs of any kind.


There have been studies in China on the use of licorice root tea powder (not the candy) for healing liver problems. It can also raise blood pressure though, so be careful. Check it out and order it online. Hope you have great results in using it.


I'm a 50 year old woman and a recovering alcoholic. I feel generally pretty good, considering the years of drinking I have done. I am having severe pain on my lower right side of my back. It is daily and it's been going on for months. Could it be kidneys or my liver?


I haven't had a drink for a long time, but my liver and kidneys are in severe pain and I can't do anything. I can't sleep or get comfortable. It feels almost like I'm dying. I'm weak, and have no appetite to eat, my blood pressure is always high, etc.


@Samantha, post no. 14: You need to see a doctor. In large doses, tylenol itself can be toxic to the liver, and the sleep agent isn't doing you any favors, either.

Your parents probably know there's a problem, already. I doubt they're completely unaware that you don't want to do anything and that you're sleeping a lot.

It sounds like you may also be suffering from depression which, considering your husband is deployed (overseas, I assume), is not uncommon.

If you can't tell your mom and dad, go see your family doctor and tell him or her. Don't try to sugarcoat it; just tell your doctor. They've heard everything.

I also urge you to seek some kind of therapy for depression. Taking 30 Tylenol in just a couple of hours is *not* normal, and it could really hurt you.

Please go see your doctor for some solutions.


I am Samantha and I am 25. Since my freshman year in high school, in which was 2001-2002, I have been taking tylenol pm every night. It started with me taking three at night, and by the end of the year I was taking upwards of seven to 10 a night. Now at 25 I am taking 23 tylenol pms to start the night, and if I can't sleep I get up and take three or four more to help me crash and burn.

When it kicks in, I can't think or talk out loud, and I can't seem to remember anything that goes through my head 10 seconds after I think of it. From time to time, I do get wicked bad heartburn, and if I end up taking more than my body is used to at night, I puke for hours the next day, every few minutes. My eyesight has recently also taken a turn for the worse, where I can only see wicked blurry, and it looks like I have lines running through my path of vision. I do also have severe back pain most days, and I know that I have always been a picky eater, but I just don't seem to be hungry anymore and only get hungry in the middle of the the night, and it's not like hunger pains in the lower part of my stomach. It's only right under my rib cage above my belly button, and it's not bad pain, but it's the feeling of never being able to be full when I do eat.

I am not turning yellow at all, but for my body to function, it needs to have at least 10-12 hours of sleep, or I cannot function, and it takes me about an hour to wake up during the day. All I can do is sit around, because I have no energy. Also about 45 minutes after I take the pills (this might sound weird) but I have to go to the bathroom and have a bm. I can't let my parents down and tell them about what's going on, due to the fact that my husband is deployed and I am home with my parents until he gets home in late September.

Maybe someone can help me get the help, or at least get me looked at, and I am not sure what to do. I'm kind of lost at the moment. I just kind of need some clues as to what's going on, or if I should be worried. Thank you!


I am having almost all of these symptoms and I'm debating going to the hospital right now or waiting until the morning. I've had these symptoms for twelve hours now and I'm really scared.


i recently was told of my illness about nine months ago. i have end stage cirrhosis, my liver is not functioning well and i have hep c, which is what could have caused this to begin with.

i first went to the doctor when i developed ascites. being totally ignorant of my health issues, i didn't understand what was going on. i was on pain meds for an auto accident, but weaned myself off, but it was very difficult. that was about three years ago and i have now found myself trying to get back on pain meds, but i know it's to cope with what i am facing. i am taking some and feel i need to become more responsible and stop misusing of these, but they do help me cope, but I don't want it to cost me my life. I just can't seem to find the strength or motivation.

Every so often i get in my pity bag and think to myself what's the motivation, i can't do much of anything anymore. i am starting to notice nausea that can be debilitating more frequently, but water pills have helped my ascites, which i am very grateful for, but it still lingers and i can't help but feel it's trying to come back. i am not jaundiced and don't seem to bruise or bleed to the point of concern.

i just need to stay away from anything that can be harmful, like pain meds. Does anyone have a feeling of how long you may have if you seem to be staying the same, but feeling even more tired than before and nausea is a problem that is becoming a bigger problem? the meds i know i shouldn't take do help me with stamina and even lessen my nausea. i am just frailing back and forth. should i mention this to my hematologist? i worry it may classify me as an addict and prevent a transplant and, obviously, a certain demise.


Please remove the claim that "It's UltraThistle by Natural Wellness" all but cured liver damage in that individual unless it's sourced, or the company can prove it. Otherwise you might just helping the company fleece desperate people of sizable chunks of their money because they are willing to try anything when all else has failed.

It's well known there is a liver-protective component in milk thistle, though I forget it's name. It's so strong in fact, that it has been reported to save someone from dying after ingesting death cap mushrooms, after a hospital administered it to them in an experimental trial. However they used massive amounts of the compound, not the tiny amounts you normally get in herbal supplements and a wise geek wouldn't let cynical or crazy exploiters profit from the misery of others.

And if they can back up and support (i.e. prove) their claim, then that's so much the better for everyone as everyone will know there's a solution. Right now, it smacks of something unkind.


My doctor said this morning my liver is only working at 25 percent and shutting down and I may die in my early eighties unless they find a new kind of treatment, as I have had hepatitis C for several years now. Of course I am worried because I am usually very fit and live a healthy life style and was hoping I could live to be 100 as I am 78 now and am a long distance avid hiker and backpacker. Like some of these other posters I don't want to die as I am enjoying life and only want to live.


When I found out I have HIV I got really upset and went insane. I had almost died from an overdose of aspirin. I took 200 pills in 25 minutes and four hours later started throwing up. My ears were ringing loudly, my headache was gone, I couldn't hear, and I was throwing up green and red for eight hours. I wasn't admitted to the hospital until the eighth hour, when I couldn't see straight, walk or hear, and had a fever of 104 F.

The doc said a couple more hours and I would've died because the lining of my stomach was destroyed, my kidneys had almost completely failed, and my liver was failing. Being on the verge of death is not fun. If you're considering doing this, don't. Get a counselor or a therapist and talk it out. There are only so many suicide attempts you can try before it actually happens, and then what? Even one is too many.


don't kill your liver with pills, please.


I'm freaking out. I have tried to OD on advil and ibuprofen a couple of months ago and I have this virus that will not go away. I've had it for like five months, and i was wondering if the two instances could be related. thanks. -sarah


Two years ago I also took an overdose of tylenol. I took over a hundred pills and went to sleep. But god was looking after me and I woke up the next morning. I had thrown up in my sleep and was really out of it with a killer head ache. I went to the er because my head hurt so bad. I didn't tell them about the overdose because I was embarrassed.

but once again I had god looking over me and the doctor did blood work, which does not happen with headache patients. He admitted me and within the day I was put in ICU, the doctors told my family they could not reverse it and tried to get me a transplant. But because of the cause I did not qualify. They told my family to say their good byes and make arrangements.

They continued numerous meds and i had to get platelets and a central line. I don't remember much but seven days later the doctor walked in and my liver healed itself. They were dumbfounded and told me they had never seen such before.

I had taken tylenol pm every night for years before this happened, and that contributed to my liver failure. But it's been two years tylenol free, alcohol free! and I cannot give anyone credit for this but God! yes the doctors did a great job.

The funny thing is, I do remember saying the entire time that I was not sick i just had a headache. i threw up every few minutes but I really never felt as though I was dying. My family remembers more than I do and it breaks my heart I did that to them.

so please people read the label on tylenol and follow them; they are there for a reason. Tylenol abuse is serious. Not everyone will be as lucky as me, i promise. God bless you all.


Around five months ago i took an overdose of tylenol. i was really really sick for a couple of days afterwards but i told my mum that it was just a stomach bug.

i haven't told anyone about it and now i think i might be experiencing some of the symptoms of liver failure. i get nauseous when i stand up and have been really achy. i also haven't had my period for a few months (not sure if this is a symptom).

I am worried because i never had any tests done and whenever i get sick that is the first thing i think of. can you please tell me what i can do?


my mom just went into the hospital for the third time today. I know she has cirrhosis of the liver (non alcoholic). Could that cause he liver to fail because that is what seems like is happening?


I can relate to all of this. I too did the interferon/ribovirin for 50 weeks. After just two months my viral load was undetectable- great news or so I thought. Everything was good until I stopped the 50 week treatments, then just a few months later my viral load jumped to almost 9 million -- twice what it was prior to starting the treatments. I found a supplement by researching online that has worked amazing results for me. It's UltraThistle by Natural Wellness. I've tried other thistle products and none even slightly compared to this one. My viral load is way down, my stool is back to the normal color and believe it or not, no liver pain. I highly recommend this product. Good luck --Dian


I have the same genotype 1a, and did the interferon/ribivirin in 1997. Ten years later in 2007, my doctor had me do the pegulated interferon/ribivirin for 72 weeks instead of the normal 50 week regime. I ended the trial in December after 72 weeks and by March of the following year it was back, as the nurse told me "with a vengeance." There is a new experimental drug called vx 750 that I'm going to talk to the liver specialist about in August. The side effects are supposed to be nasty, but since I also am at stage 4 there doesn't seem to be a lot of choice. The best thing you can do is to live healthy, *stay away from alcohol*!!!! and whatever else is prescribed. Good Luck :)


I have been on the combo pack of pegintron and ribovirin since feb 4th 09 and in 2 weeks my viral load numbers went from 960,000 to 4,652,000 so I'm staying on it for 4 more weeks to see if it will help, but otherwise if it doesn't come down she said (doc) she'll monitor me closely. I have stage 4 cirrhosis so I'm scared. That's not the news you want to hear. Isn't there anything else I can try to get rid of this virus? Also, my geno type is 1a.

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