What Is Hepatic encephalopathy?
When the brain function declines due to severe disease of the liver, this condition is known as hepatic encephalopathy. It occurs when the liver cannot remove the toxins from the blood properly, which results in the build-up of toxins in the blood leading to brain damage.
Hepatic Encephalopathy is of 2 types – chronic (long term) and acute (short-term). The patient suffering from hepatic encephalopathy can also go into a coma.
Acute hepatic encephalopathy occurs due to severe disease of the liver and this mainly occurs in people suffering from the following conditions:
- Toxic Hepatitis:Caused due to drugs (prescription or recreational), chemicals, alcohol or supplements.
- Acute Fulminant Viral Hepatitis:Severe kind of viral hepatitis that occurs suddenly.
- Reye’s Syndrome:This is usually a serious condition that occurs in children and causes sudden inflammation of the liver and the brain. This is condition is quite rare.
Acute hepatic encephalopathy can also reflect a symptom of liver failure.
Chronic hepatic encephalopathy can be recurrent or permanent.
- Permanent Hepatic Encephalopathy:This is usually seen in patients who suffer from permanent neurological problems like spinal cord injury or seizure disorder and also don’t respond to medical treatment. Permanent hepatic encephalopathy is a rare condition.
- Recurrent Hepatic Encephalopathy: In this case, the person can have several episodes of hepatic encephalopathy through their lives and require continual treatment to stop the development of the symptoms. This form of hepatic encephalopathy is usually seen in patients with severe liver cirrhosis.
There are 4 stages of hepatic encephalopathy
- In the 1st stage, the sleep patterns may get affected and the patient may suffer from restlessness, anxiety and depression.
- In the 2nd stage, there may be personality changes, with an inability to complete mental tasks and the patient may suffer from disorientation.
- In Stage 3, the behaviour may become more aggressive and bizarre. The patient may suffer from paranoia and speech may become difficult to understand.
- In Stage 4, the patient may go into a coma and becomes unresponsive to any pain or treatment.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hepatic encephalopathy?
The symptoms of moderate hepatic encephalopathy are:
- Personality changes
- Difficulty in thinking
- Poor concentration
- Forgetfulness and brain fog, confusion
- Loss of small hand movements and having problems with handwriting
- Sweet breath odor or musty breath
- Poor judgement
The symptoms of severe hepatic encephalopathy include:
- Drowsiness or lethargy, confusion
- Seizures, anxiety, fatigue
- Serious personality changes
- Confused speech, slow movements, shaky hands
What Are The Causes Of Hepatic encephalopathy?
The actual cause of hepatic encephalopathy is not known and is usually caused due to toxin build-up in the blood which enters the brain. The toxins can also cause damage to the nerves and other organs.
Hepatic encephalopathy can be caused by:
- Kidney problems
- Infections like pneumonia
- Hypoxia or low levels of oxygen
- Trauma or surgery
- Medications used to suppress the immune system
- Eating excessive protein
- Electrolyte imbalance due to a fall in potassium levels after taking diuretics or vomiting
- Medications like benzodiazepine tranquillizers or barbiturates which suppress the nervous system
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Hepatic encephalopathy?
By preventing or managing the liver disease, you can prevent hepatic encephalopathy and taking these steps can help to reduce the risk of liver disease such as:
- Avoiding alcohol.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Following a healthy diet and avoiding foods that are high in fat.
- Avoiding drugs or sharing needles.
Taking care to avoid contracting viral hepatitis by following steps such as:
- Washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
- Avoiding close contact with people suffering from viral hepatitis.
- Avoiding sharing needles.
Changing your diet and eating smaller and more frequent meals than 3 big meals in a day thereby reducing the period of fasting.
Treating any infection immediately.
Treating urinary blockages immediately.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Hepatic encephalopathy?
- Avoid medications like narcotics and sedatives which can cause liver problems.
- Avoid alcohol completely, as it harms the liver cells and causes liver damage.
- Avoid electrolyte abnormalities, for instance, low levels of potassium increase the risk of hepatic encephalopathy.
- Avoid medications that suppress the central nervous system.
What Are The Best Foods For Hepatic encephalopathy?
- If you’re suffering from constipation, treat it to regularize the bowel movements by eating more vegetables and fibre-rich food and reducing meat. This helps to flush out the toxins from the body.
- Eat whole grains, whole grain breads and cereals as they are beneficial for the liver.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, as they provide the body with a whole range of vital nutrients that can be beneficial for the condition of hepatic encephalopathy.
- Drink plenty of fluids (around 6-8 glasses a day). Along with water, you can also have milk, juice, soup, tea, etc.
- Vitamin E can help to reduce liver damage and also strengthens the immune system.
- Papaya seeds are beneficial for liver health and are used in the treatment of liver cirrhosis caused due to alcoholism and malnutrition. Grind the papaya seeds with a few drops of lime juice and have it 1-2 times in a day for a month for benefits.
- Selenium has antioxidant effects and has been found to have several benefits for people suffering from liver cirrhosis and other liver diseases.
What Are The Worst Foods For Hepatic encephalopathy?
- Avoid eating a lot of meat, as this may cause the production of too much of ammonia which is harmful to the liver and switch to other sources of protein such as dairy, legumes, beans, vegetables, etc.
- If the condition of hepatic encephalopathy has been caused due to eating too much of protein, then avoid high-protein foods like red meat, fish, eggs and poultry.
- Avoid too much of salt in your food and avoid salty foods like bacon, salted nuts, hot dogs, canned foods, etc as this aggravates the condition of hepatic encephalopathy.
- Avoid sugary foods and beverages like fruit juice, soda, energy drinks, canned fruit, breakfast cereal, candies, etc as these worsens the symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy.
- Avoid fatty foods like fries, burgers, fast food, etc., as these foods are very harmful to the liver.
What Are The Medicines For Hepatic encephalopathy?
What Are The Tips To Manage Hepatic encephalopathy?
Following yoga and meditation can help to reduce anxiety and stress and can be beneficial for the condition of hepatic encephalopathy.