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by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Encephalopathy

(Glycine Encephalopathy; Hepatic Encephalopathy; Statin Encephalopathy; Uremic Encephalopathy; Hashimoto Encephalopathy; Hypertensive Encephalopathy; Toxic-metabolic Encephalopathy)

Definition

Encephalopathy is a disease of the brain that causes problem with how it works. There are many types. A key sign is a change in mental state, such as confusion and sudden mood changes.

Causes

There are many causes. Some common ones are:
  • Infection
  • Head injury
  • Brain tumor or pressure in the brain
  • Poor nutrition
  • Exposure to toxins
  • No oxygen or blood flow to the brain
Oxygen and Blood Flow to the Brain
oxygen brain lungs
Encephalopathy can happen when the brain does not get oxygen and blood.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Risk factors depend on the type of encephalopathy a person has. For example, alcohol use disorder can put a person at risk for Wernicke encephalopathy.

Symptoms

The main problem is a change in mental state, such as:
  • Memory loss that happens quickly or over time
  • Lack of focus
  • Problems thinking
  • Confusion
  • Mood changes
  • Behavior changes
Other problems may be:
  • Being very tired
  • Muscle weakness and unsteadiness
  • Lack of muscle control, such as jerking or twitching
  • Shaking
  • Moving the eyes without control
  • Seizures

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask you or your caregiver about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
These tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis and find the cause:

Treatment

The cause will need to be treated. This may be done with:
  • Medicine, such as antibiotics to treat infections
  • Dietary changes
  • Dialysis to remove toxins from the blood
  • An organ transplant

Prevention

Many causes cannot be prevented. The risk of some causes may be lowered by:
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Eating a healthful diet that is rich and fruits and veggies
  • Not being around toxins

RESOURCES

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders
http://www.niddk.nih.gov
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Liver Foundation
http://www.liver.ca
Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References

Eencephalopathy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Encephalopathy-Information-Page. Updated March 27, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2020.
Hepatic encephalopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hepatic-encephalopathy. Updated July 23, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2020.
Wijdicks EF. Hepatic Encephalopathy. N Engl J Med. 2016 Oct 27;375(17):1660-1670.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 02/2020
  • Update Date: 04/16/2020