The Most Common Liver Failure Symptoms

February 7, 2024

The liver sits under the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen. It is the size of a football and is responsible for digesting food as well as helping the body to rid itself of toxic substances. Damage can occur to the liver as a result of many factors, such as genetics and viruses. Given enough time, this damage can become scarring in the liver, which can eventually lead to liver failure. Liver failure is a life-threatening condition, and it is important to know the symptoms so individuals can seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Loss Of Appetite

Loss of appetite can seem like a very broad symptom of many things in addition to liver failure. While the lack of desire to eat does not necessarily equal liver failure, when paired with other symptoms, it can be a good indicator of what is going on inside the body. This is because a loss of appetite can be coupled with liver failure when liver failure is a result of a variety of causes. For instance, infection, immune system abnormality, genetics, and cancer are all causes that can cause a loss of appetite. This symptom can also lead to health issues if the patient does not take care to eat, regardless of whether or not they feel hungry.


The reason a patient may experience diarrhea when they are in liver failure is the liver is a crucial part of the digestive system. Without properly doing its job, the system does not function properly. In addition to dealing with diarrhea, the patient may also feel discomfort. They should also be careful to pay attention to the color of their stool as extremely pale, bloody, or tar-colored stool can be another sign of liver failure. If the color of an individual's stool seems off or if they are having trouble with excessively runny stool, they should contact a medical professional as soon as possible.

Chronic Fatigue And Sleepiness

Chronic fatigue and sleepiness can come in many forms. It can be peripheral or central. Peripheral means chronic fatigue is sourced from the muscles and manifests itself physically, and central means it deals with the central nervous system, and it becomes an issue of self-motivation rather than physical ability. What is important to note about this kind of fatigue, however, is it is not directly correlated to the severity of liver disease or failure. Individuals who have minor liver disease could feel complete exhaustion while those with liver failure may feel no tiredness at al and vice versa.

Increased Nausea

Nausea is a symptom that often follows other digestion-related symptoms. For the same reasons a patient may find themselves dealing with runny stool, they may also find themselves dealing with increased nausea. Nausea can also be an early indicator of exposure to harmful substances that may lead to liver failure. For example, aerosol sprays can be dangerous when used in a poorly ventilated room. Additionally, certain medications can be harmful when ingested improperly or excessively. Finally, excessive alcohol consumption over time can cause increased nausea in patients. An increase in nausea can also lead to an array of other symptoms such as vomiting and a lack of sufficient food to nourish and energize the body.


Jaundice is a peculiar symptom that occurs in patients who are in liver failure as a result of excess alcohol consumption throughout their lifetimes. Typically, this leads to cirrhosis, which can then result in liver failure. The reason jaundice occurs in patients is because too much bilirubin builds up in the blood. The liver is responsible for making sure the bilirubin is filtered out of the bloodstream when it dies. However, when the liver is not working properly, it causes the bilirubin to build up as the liver struggles to keep up. It is a rare symptom, but it is very indicative of liver failure for this reason.

Abdominal Swelling

Whether individuals are suffering from an acute or chronic case of liver failure, among the most common symptoms attributed to this condition is abdominal swelling. Along with being a highly common symptom with liver failure, it's also easy to detect. Their abdominal area will begin to swell to a size that's larger than normal.

While abdominal swelling could be caused by some relatively minor health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or lactose intolerance, there's a chance the swelling could be the first sign an individual's liver is beginning to fail. When a liver begins to fail, there's a possibility it will become larger and swell. Because of the location of the liver, the swelling of this organ will cause patients to go through swelling in the abdomen as well. Liver failure can also lead to ascites, which is a condition that causes fluid buildup in the abdomen. This buildup of fluids will likely cause swelling within the abdomen.

Confusion Or Disorientation

Confusion or disorientation can readily occur when suffering from liver failure because of the loss of function that takes place with the liver. When the liver is functioning properly, it will remove toxic substances from an individual's blood. However, liver failure means these toxic substances can't be removed properly from the patient's blood, which can lead to a wide range of problems. Over time, these toxic substances will continue to build up within the bloodstream and can eventually create problems with the individual's nervous system. If the brain function begins to worsen, patients may start to experience periods of confusion or disorientation that seemingly appear out of nowhere.

If an individual is confused, it will likely feel as though they're unable to think clearly. When suffering from confusion, disorientation is also possible, which means they'll lose their sense of direction. While these liver failure symptoms may not seem severe, patients could lose their ability to perform everyday functions. An individual's general behavior and judgment will also worsen when they're confused, which is why it's highly recommended to get these symptoms checked out immediately after beginning to experience them.

Bleeding Easily

When an individual's liver begins to fail, they will invariably find they're bleeding easily. In the event of liver malfunction, it will no longer be able to synthesize the amount of proteins necessary to help with blood clotting. Whenever affected individuals accidentally cut themselves or become injured in some other way, the proteins synthesized by their livers will assist in blood clotting and healing the cuts. Without this liver function, the body won't be able to properly heal itself, which means patients will have a higher tendency to bleed and bruise easily.

Any cuts they suffer from will take longer to heal and will bleed more profusely until treated. It will also be much easier for their skin to become bruised. These symptoms are simple to identify, which should allow patients to obtain treatment quickly. This bleeding can also extend to the gastrointestinal tract, which can lead to the development of many other complications. Aside from getting cut, other signs an individual is bleeding more easily include nosebleeds that can't be explained and excessive menstrual blood flow.


Malaise is surprisingly the most common symptom of liver failure experienced by the majority of individuals who suffer from it. When suffering from malaise, patients will have a general feeling or sense they are unwell, which is typically accompanied by some pain and fatigue. Patients will also display a lack of interest in the activities and hobbies they usually partake in. It's important to understand this is typically the first sign of an underlying condition or disease, which is why affected individuals should take the necessary steps to obtain treatment immediately.

Currently, it is not exactly known why the failure of an individual's liver can cause them to experience malaise. It's believed the presence of a diseased and failing liver results in changes within the neurotransmitter systems of the brain, which cause individuals to feel as though they are unwell and sickly. While these symptoms can be frustrating to deal with, they can also signal to patients that treatment may be necessary.

Blood In The Stool

Blood in the stool is a standard symptom of liver failure that occurs most commonly with acute cases. This symptom oftentimes takes place towards the latter stages of liver failure and can be accompanied by instances of vomiting blood. When blood is in an individual's stool, their stool can appear reddened or even blackened. The reason blood develops within the stool is because liver failure affects the other components of your body. When an individual's liver starts to fail, their stomach and esophagus will begin to deteriorate as well. The varicose veins inside of the esophagus and stomach can begin to bleed, which will cause blood to get into the patient's stool. Even if they haven't yet experienced any of the other symptoms of liver failure, blood in the stool is almost always a sign of a severe underlying condition.

MORE FROM HealthPrep