Encephalopathy is a dementia complication of fatty liver disease caused by toxins.

The liver is one of our vital organs, performing over 500 bodily functions. One of these functions is to remove potentially harmful substances found in the body and render them harmless. However, if there is a problem with the liver, these toxins can enter the bloodstream and travel to other areas.

This can happen in severe cases of fatty liver disease.

As the name suggests, fatty liver disease, also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, occurs when there is excess fat in the liver.

It doesn’t cause symptoms initially, but if it progresses it can become dangerous.

After years of inflammation, the organ can become shrunken, bumpy, and scarred, which is the fourth and final stage of the fatty liver disease known as cirrhosis.

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In extreme cases, cirrhosis can progress to liver failure and even liver cancer.

However, it can also have an effect on the brain.

Hepatic encephalopathy refers to changes in the brain caused by acute or chronic liver disease.

The British Liver Trust reports: “This is one of the main complications of cirrhosis of the liver.”

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This explains how it happens. “One of the most important things the liver does is change potentially harmful substances that are either produced or absorbed by the body and render them harmless,” the foundation said in a statement.

“However, if the liver is severely damaged and cannot function properly, these ‘toxins’ can accumulate in the bloodstream.

“If they get into the brain, they can lead to a condition called hepatic encephalopathy.”

Symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy

Hepatic encephalopathy can be confused with dementia due to its effect on the brain.

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Dementia is also common in patients with hepatic encephalopathy.

One study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology states, “Dementia is commonly diagnosed in patients with cirrhosis and correlates with a diagnosis of hepatic encephalopathy, regardless of alcohol use, brain injury, age, and other metabolic risk factors.”

The liver trusts the general symptoms of the condition: “Symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy can range from mild to severe and can vary from person to person.

“Symptoms can develop quickly or slowly over a period of time. Patients with hepatic encephalopathy may have both physical symptoms and reduced mental function.”

Early symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness
  • Personality or mood changes
  • Stale or sweet breath
  • shortsightedness
  • Poor concentration
  • Changing sleep patterns
  • Worsening of handwriting or small hand movements.

In more severe cases, this can lead to:

  • Unusual movements or shaking of the hands or arms
  • extreme anxiety
  • convulsions
  • heavy confusion
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Serious personality changes.
  • Disorderly and slurred speech
  • Slow motion.

Treatment for hepatic encephalopathy will include identifying and treating its original cause.

Factors that can increase the risk of fatty liver disease include being overweight or obese, having type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.

If you suspect that you have fatty liver or hepatic encephalopathy, you should contact your general practitioner.

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