Causes of encephalopathy

There are many types of encephalopathy and brain disease. Some types are permanent and some are temporary.

Encephalopathy means damage or disease that affects the brain. It happens when there’s been a change in the way your brain works or a change in your body that affects your brain. Such changes lead to an altered mental state, leaving you confused and not acting like you usually do.

Similarly, there are many types of encephalopathy and brain disease. Some types are permanent and some are temporary. Some types are present from birth and never change, while others are obtained after birth and may get progressively more harmful.

What are the types of encephalopathy?

The following are some major types of this disease, along with their causes.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy

This kind of encephalopathy happens when there are many traumas or injuries to the brain. Especially these blows to the head lead to nerve damage in the brain. Generally, it’s usually found in boxers, football players, or members of the military who have been injured in blasts.

Glycine encephalopathy

Glycine encephalopathy is a genetic, or inherited, condition in which there are abnormally high levels of glycine (an amino acid) in the brain. For the most part symptoms of glycine encephalopathy usually happen in infants soon after birth.

Hashimoto’s encephalopathy

A rare type of encephalopathy such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis has a connection with autoimmune conditions. Such as in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, your immune system wrongly attacks your thyroid gland. However, your thyroid gland is liable for producing many of your body’s regulating hormones. Although specialists don’t yet know exactly how the two conditions are connected.

Hepatic encephalopathy

Hepatic encephalopathy is a result of liver disease. When your liver isn’t working properly, the toxins that your liver usually removes from your body rather collect in your blood, and can ultimately reach your brain.

Hypertensive encephalopathy

Hypertensive encephalopathy is a result of several high blood pressure that goes untreated for too long. As a result of this can cause your brain to swell, leading to brain damage and hypertensive encephalopathy.

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

This condition is a type of brain damage that is caused when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. Such as this can result in permanent brain damage or dysfunction. It can be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, such as when a developing baby is exposed to alcohol in the womb.

Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy

Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy is a result of infections, toxins, or organ failure. When the electrolytes, hormones, or other chemicals in the body are off their normal balance, they can affect the brain’s function. This can also include the presence of an infection in the body or the presence of toxic chemicals. The condition usually settles when the underlying chemical imbalance is repaired or the offending infection/toxin removed.

Infectious encephalopathies

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are also known as prion diseases. Prions are proteins that occur naturally in the body, but they can mutate and cause infections that gradually damage and worsen your brain (neurodegenerative diseases). Prion diseases include:

  • chronic wasting disease
  • fatal familial insomnia
  • kuru
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Uremic encephalopathy

Uremic encephalopathy is a result of kidney failure. It is considered to be caused by the buildup of uremic toxins in the blood. Generally, this condition can cause mild confusion to a deep coma.

Wernicke encephalopathy

Also known as Wernicke’s disease, this condition is a result of vitamin B-1 deficiency. Generally, long-term alcoholism, poor nutritional intake, and poor food absorption can cause a vitamin B-1 deficiency. To summarize if Wernicke’s encephalopathy isn’t treated quickly, it can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Symptoms of encephalopathy?

Your symptoms will depend on the cause and severity of your disease.

Mental changes

Such as you may have difficulty with memory or focusing. You may also have trouble with problem-solving skills.

Other people may notice symptoms in you before you do. A changing personality is one such symptom. For example, you may be more outgoing than you were before the disease. You may be more or less calm than you were before the disease.

You could also be lethargic and drowsy.

Neurological symptoms

Possible neurological symptoms include:

  • muscle weakness in one area
  • poor decision-making or concentration
  • involuntary twitching
  • also, trembling
  • difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • seizures

When to ask for medical help?

You should see a doctor right away if you experience symptoms of encephalopathy. If you are already receiving treatment for brain disease, be conscious of the following signs:

  • severe confusion
  • severe disorientation
  • coma

Particularly, these can be signs of medical urgency. Generally, they may mean that your condition is getting worse.

Diagnosis of encephalopathy

In particular, to diagnose encephalopathy, your doctor will ask you questions about your medical history and your symptoms. They will also perform a medical exam to check for mental and neurological symptoms.

Such as if your doctor assumes that you have a brain disease, they may conduct tests to determine the causes and severity of your disease. Tests may include:

  • blood tests to detect diseases, bacteria, viruses, toxins, hormonal or chemical imbalance, or prions
  • spinal tap (your doctor will take a sample of your spinal fluid to look for diseases, bacteria, viruses, toxins, or prion)
  • CT or MRI scan of your brain to detect abnormalities or damage
  • electroencephalogram(EEG) test to measure the electrical activity in your brain

Treatment of encephalopathy

Accordingly, the treatment for the disease varies depending on what caused it. In short, treatment may include medications to treat your symptoms and medications or surgery to treat the underlying cause.

Similarly, your doctor may recommend nutritional supplements to slow the damage to your brain, or a special diet to treat underlying causes. In some cases of the disease, such as when the brain does not receive sufficient oxygen, you may slip into a coma. Particularly in severe cases like this, your doctor may put you on life support to keep you alive.

Is this disease preventable?

Some types of encephalopathy — such as hereditary types — are not preventable. However, other types are preventable.

Making the following changes can reduce your risk of developing many of the underlying causes of the disease:

  • avoiding excess alcohol
  • reducing exposure to toxic substances like drugs
  • eating a healthy diet
  • seeing your doctor regularly

Especially living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk factors for brain disease.

Long-term viewpoint

Your long-term outlook depends on the cause and severity of your disease. For the most part, many forms of encephalopathy are reversible if the cause can be identified and treated. All types can be fatal if severe enough. Some types are always fatal.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy usually results in death within three months to a few years from the onset of the disease.

Treatment for the cause of your brain disease may improve your symptoms or may get rid of the encephalopathy. Thus depending on the type of encephalopathy, you may or may not have permanent damage to your brain. Your healthcare team can work with you and your loved ones regarding ongoing treatment and plans for therapy to support your day-to-day life in the case of brain damage.