We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

What Is Acetaminophen Liver Damage?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Acetaminophen liver damage is an impairment of liver function caused by acetaminophen toxicity. Liver damage resulting from the abuse or prolonged use of an over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen-based analgesic, such as Tylenol, can be irreversible. Signs and symptoms of liver damage can happen in stages and require immediate medical attention. A prompt assessment of the extent of toxicity and related liver damage, as well as the administration of appropriate treatment, is essential to preventing complications and possible fatality.

When acetaminophen is ingested, it is metabolized by the liver. If it is taken as directed, there is minimal risk that acetaminophen toxicity or liver damage will occur. Taking acetaminophen for extended periods of time or in excess, such as exceeding the recommended dosage, can result in a toxic saturation of the liver. The accumulation of metabolized analgesic causes liver inflammation and, over time, can result in liver damage and irreversible scarring.

In most cases, a diagnosis of acetaminophen toxicity occurs before liver damage is determined or assessed. Laboratory and diagnostic tests are primarily used to evaluate the extent of acetaminophen liver damage. Blood panels and imaging tests are generally performed to assess the liver's function and health. A liver biopsy may also be ordered to measure the extent of the acetaminophen liver damage that has occurred.

Overdose is the most common cause of acetaminophen liver damage. Whether the overdose is intentional or not, typical signs and symptoms often present within a matter of hours. To prevent extensive liver damage, it is essential that medical treatment is sought at the first sign of an adverse reaction.

The body’s initial reaction to acetaminophen toxicity is to purge the toxin from the body. Individuals usually experience nausea, vomiting, and headache. As liver inflammation increases, the individual may become easily fatigued and develop abdominal discomfort. Prolonged liver inflammation can result in jaundice and widespread organ impairment.

The liver is a resilient organ that may repair itself in the event of mild injury, but its resilience is not indefinite. It is important to understand that once extensive scarring occurs, the affected tissue can atrophy, or lose function. Considerable, irreversible organ damage can contribute to liver failure, necessitating a transplantation.

In order to limit the extent of acetaminophen liver damage, acetaminophen use must be discontinued. Those whose condition was induced by intentional overdose may have their stomach pumped. Antidotal medication may be administered within the first few hours of overdose in an effort to prevent liver damage. Depending on the severity of one’s condition, intravenous fluids, nutrients, and medications may be administered to alleviate the effects of acetaminophen toxicity. Once the danger of toxicity has passed, an assessment of the liver may be performed to determine the extent of the potential damage.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.