Symptoms and Signs of Encephalopathy

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Medically Reviewed on 4/8/2019

Doctor's Notes on Encephalopathy

The term “encephalopathy” is used to refer to an abnormality of brain function or structure. There are many conditions that can cause encephalopathy. Examples of causes include lack of nutrients, lack of oxygen delivery to the brain via the bloodstream, poisoning, alcoholism, infection, kidney failure, liver failure, trauma, or anatomic abnormalities. 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 can 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.

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