Symptoms and Signs of Encephalopathy

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2022

Doctor's Notes on Encephalopathy

Encephalopathy refers to an abnormality of brain function or structure. There are many conditions that can cause encephalopathy. Examples of causes include:

Some forms of encephalopathy may be reversible while others are permanent. Signs and symptoms of encephalopathy can vary widely according to the cause and the severity of the underlying condition. Symptoms range from mild lethargy to coma. Associated symptoms may include:

  • memory loss,
  • confusion,
  • poor judgment,
  • psychosis,
  • cognitive impairment, and
  • hallucinations.

In cases of profound encephalopathy, even basic brain functions that control wakefulness, breathing, heartbeat, and temperature are affected.

What Is the Treatment for Encephalopathy?

Treatment for encephalopathy includes treating the underlying cause of the condition, and these causes vary widely. Treatment may include:

  • Medications to control seizures
  • Medications to reduce ammonia levels in the blood
  • Antibiotics to control infections
  • Medications to control underlying conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or heart failure, or liver disease
  • Stopping a medication that is causing the condition
  • Surgery or medical therapy for brain tumors
  • Dialysis for kidney failure

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.