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Digestive and Gastrointestinal Conditions

Liver Failure

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Symptoms of Liver Failure

Liver failure can happen as the result of many types of problems with the liver. It can come on suddenly -- for example, after poisoning with certain chemicals, herbs or even some medicines. It can be the result of a longer-term disease or defect, such as hepatitis or biliary atresia. Symptoms of all these problems vary.

In general, one of the first signs of a problem with your child's liver is jaundice. Jaundice happens when the liver is unable to remove bilirubin, a yellow pigment, from the blood. This gives a yellow color to a child's skin and the whites of the eyes.

Many healthy babies have mild jaundice, especially during the first week or two of life. This normal type of jaundice usually goes away by the time your child is about 2 weeks old. If jaundice gets worse, take your baby to the doctor to check for a possible liver problem.

Other symptoms of jaundice are:

  • Darkening in the color of urine
  • Pale, grey or white bowel movements (stools)

Symptoms of liver disease or liver failure may include:

  • Bruising or bleeding easily
  • Weakness
  • Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Trouble thinking
  • Swelling or bloating in the belly area (abdomen)
  • Generally feeling ill

Liver Failure Diagnosis

Your child's doctor may suspect liver failure after:

  • Asking you about your child's symptoms
  • Examining your child

Your child will also have blood tests so the doctor can see how well their liver is working.

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

Find out by selecting your child’s symptom or health condition in the list below:

Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)