encephalopathy is a worsening of
brain function that occurs when the
liver is no longer able to remove toxic
substances in the blood.
encephalopathy is caused by disorders
that affect the liver. These include
disorders that reduce liver function
(such as cirrhosis or hepatitis) and
conditions in which blood circulation
does not enter the liver.
Ammonia, which is produced by the body
when proteins are digested, is one of
the harmful substances that are normally
made harmless by the liver. Many other
substances may also build up in the body
if the liver is not working well. They
can cause damage to the nervous system.
Hepatic encephalopathy may be
triggered by dehydration, eating too
much protein, electrolyte abnormalities
(especially a decrease in potassium)
from vomiting, or from treatments such
as paracentesis or taking diuretics
("water pills"), bleeding from the
intestines, stomach, or esophagus,
infections, kidney problems, low oxygen
levels in the body, surgery, use of
medications that suppress the central
nervous system, or alcohol abuse.
Treatment depends on how bad your
condition is. For mild hepatic
encephalopathy, a change to a low
protein diet may be all that is needed. A high protein diet increases the
ammonia in blood and may worsen the
disease. You may also be given medicine
to increase bowel movements to reduce
the amount of ammonia and other toxins
being absorbed into your blood.
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