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What is Encephalopathy?

Encephalopathy is a term used to describe damage or disease of the brain. It occurs when there has been a change in the way your brain works or there has been a change in your body that affects the brain. Encephalopathy is a group of disorders with several different causes and is a serious problem that requires treatment to avoid temporary or permanent brain damage.

One type of reversible encephalopathy is hepatic encephalopathy when your liver is unable to remove toxins from your blood and they buildup in your body. This makes it difficult for your brain to work properly. This condition can occur in patients with chronic liver disease or after an overdose of acetaminophen or other medications. Overall, there are three types of hepatic encephalopathy including:

Type A

Caused by acute liver failure (without underlying chronic liver disease).

Type B

This can occur in some people who have a shunt connecting two veins inside of the liver without underlying liver disease.

Type C

This is a result of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Common symptoms associated with hepatic encephalopathy include:

  • Irritability or anxiety.
  • Balance problems.
  • Confusion or impaired judgment.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Muscle twitches.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Slurred speech.
  • And more.

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How is Encephalopathy Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with this condition, your provider may perform blood tests to identify any problems such as bleeding or infections associated with liver disease. Other tests may also be ordered to rule out brain tumors or strokes such as MRI, CT scans or EEG.

Encephalopathy Treatment Options

Treatment for hepatic encephalopathy will depend on your symptoms, the severity of your condition and your overall health. Antibiotics may be prescribed to help stop bacteria in your body that make natural toxins from digested food. Laxatives may also be useful for drawing toxins into the colon and out of the body through bowel movements.

Overall, liver disease requires treatment to improve liver function and stop toxin buildup. This involves medications and lifestyle changes such as not drinking alcohol. If you need help with stopping drinking, we will happy to help you find a support group in your area.

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Encephalopathy or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!

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