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A to Z: Encephalopathy

Encephalopathy is a broad term used to describe brain dysfunction. There are many types of encephalopathies.

More to Know

Encephalopathy has an extensive list of causes including infections, alcohol toxicity, brain trauma, liver and kidney failure, and prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals. Lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain, metabolic disorders, malnutrition, and other causes also can lead to abnormal brain functioning.

The primary symptom of all encephalopathies is an altered mental state. Other symptoms will depend upon the type of encephalopathy and how severe it is. They include lack of concentration, progressive loss of memory and cognitive ability, lethargy, personality changes, and even loss of consciousness. Someone with encephalopathy also might have muscle twitches and tremors, rapid and involuntary eye movement, muscle weakness, dementia, inability to swallow or speak, and seizures.

Symptoms may be constant or they may come and go or get progressively worse.

Treatment of encephalopathy will depend upon the condition that caused it. Mild or acute cases often are treatable, but advanced encephalopathy can lead to permanent brain damage and death.

Keep in Mind

While some people experiencing encephalopathy will need only short-term care, most will need to be closely monitored and treated by their doctor to keep their brain function from declining any further.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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