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.
There are many causes. Some common ones are:
- 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
Encephalopathy can happen when the brain does not get oxygen and blood.
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The main problem is a change in mental state, such as:
- Memory loss that happens quickly or over time
- Lack of focus
- Problems thinking
- Mood changes
- Behavior changes
Other problems may be:
- Being very tired
- Muscle weakness and unsteadiness
- Lack of muscle control, such as jerking or twitching
- Moving the eyes without control
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:
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
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
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.
Last reviewed February 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 4/16/2020