Liver damage (leading to possible failure) can occur due to chronic conditions (more than 6 months to develop) and acute conditions (within eight weeks of onset of illness).
Chronic cases can take months and years to diagnose and hence early symptoms are hard to associate with liver damage. Subtle signs of onset of liver damage are nausea, a loss of appetite, recurring fatigue, and mild to severe diarrhea. Factors triggering chronic liver damage can range from Hepatitis B/C, prolonged alcohol abuse, Cirrhosis, Hemochromatosis (hereditary disorder leading to excess iron absorption), Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) & Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), Autoimmune Hepatitis, bile duct disease, and malnutrition.
Acute or sudden liver damage and eventual failure can be as rapid as 48 hours from the onset of disease due to multiple factors like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) overdose, viruses including hepatitis A, B, and C (especially in children), reactions to certain prescription and herbal medications, ingestion of poisonous wild mushrooms, etc.
These factors can eventually lead to cirrhosis (scarring or fibrosis of liver tissue) – a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and is unable to function normally and repair any damage to it. Advanced stages (both chronic and acute) exhibit symptoms like jaundice (yellow skin and eyes), fluid build-up and painful swelling of the legs (edema) and abdomen (ascites), bruising and bleeding easily, enlarged veins in the lower esophagus (esophageal varices) and stomach (gastropathy), enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), stone-like particles in gallbladder and bile duct (gallstones), mental disorientation/confusion (hepatic encephalopathy), drowsiness, etc.