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Question: My father has alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, portal hypertention, varices of the esophagus, and diabetes. He is currently drinking. Several days ago his face became very swollen and the skin was falling off his lips. Is this related to the cirrhosis? Also what are the final symptoms of liver failure and death by cirrhosis? Thanks, Casey

Answer: Dear Casey,

Liver failure is the final stage of liver disease. Even when the cause is for liver disease is identified and treated, the progression to complete liver failure may be irreversible. In this case, steps are taken to slow down the decline of liver function. The patient's diet is restricted. Protein consumption is kept at optimal levels. Alcohol must be completely avoided. Keeping sodium consumption down helps to prevent ascites, the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. Liver dialysis is evolving as a treatment modality and is pending approval by regulators in the USA. Liver transplantation is the definitive treatment for liver failure, but is not an option for all patients and the supply of livers is limited.

Serious symptoms of progressive liver failure include:

  • Jaundice
  • Bleeding easily
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Mental disorientation or confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Coma

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