Hepatic encephalopathy is a condition caused by severe liver disease. Alcoholic encephalopathy is the same condition but refers to cases of liver disease which have been caused by alcohol abuse.
The liver is responsible for removing any toxins that enter the body. If you consume large amounts of alcohol, which is a toxin, the liver is unable to cope and the toxins enter the bloodstream and reach the brain, causing a decline in brain function.
Alcoholic encephalopathy can either be acute or chronic.
What are the symptoms of Alcoholic Encephalopathy?
The symptoms can vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. As it is affecting the function of your brain the symptoms can be both physical and mental.
Mild symptoms may include:
- difficulty thinking
- personality changes
- poor concentration
- change in sleep patterns
- problems with handwriting or loss of other small-hand movements
- mild confusion
- poor judgment
- a stale or sweet smelling breath
Severe symptoms may include:
- shaking of hands or arms
- feeling drowsy or lethargic
- extreme anxiety
- severe confusion
- severe personality changes
- jumbled and slurred speech
- slow movement
What causes alcoholic encephalopathy?
Severe liver disease causes alcoholic encephalopathy. If you have been diagnosed with liver disease due to alcohol abuse, you are at risk of developing alcoholic encephalopathy. It is not known exactly what triggers an episode of alcoholic encephalopathy, but it is thought that possible triggers are:
- Problems with your kidneys
- Drinking alcohol
- Certain medications which affect your nervous system such as sleeping pills
How is it diagnosed?
If your Dr suspects that you have alcoholic encephalopathy, they will probably ask for blood tests, CT or MRI scans to check for unusual brain activity and liver function tests.
What is the treatment?
Alcoholic encephalopathy can be treated with medication. The exact medications used will depend on your individual case, but the Dr will take in to consideration what is thought to have triggered it in your particular case.
Medications are used to help reduce the amount of toxin in your bloodstream and treat any other symptoms that you may be experiencing.
The condition becomes chronic if it returns repeatedly and continues to worsen. If you have suffered an episode of alcoholic encephalopathy, drinking alcohol could cause the condition to worsen resulting in coma and probable death.