Metabolic encephalopathy is the term used to describe damage to the brain caused due to serious impairment of body’s metabolic activity. The damage can be temporary or permanent. Systemic diseases such as diabetes, cirrhosis of liver, kidney failure, heart failure all can cause metabolic encephalopathy. Symptoms of metabolic encephalopathy may depend on underlying cause. There can be neurological changes such as difficulty with memory, tremors, involuntary twitching, seizures, disorientation and mental confusion.
Most cases of metabolic encephalopathy develop when the liver is not able to flush out toxins from the body. This results in buildup of toxins which ultimately damages the brain function.Patient suffering from metabolic encephalopathy needs urgent medical care. Patient needs hospitalization. Management criteria are to remove and neutralize toxin buildup in the blood and reverse the underlying cause. However, in some cases there are chances of residual brain injury even after treatment.
Causes Of Metabolic Encephalopathy
Metabolic encephalopathy occurs when there is significant derangement in the metabolic system of the body. This may occur due to poisoning or some type of diseases that causes dysfunction of liver. For example cirrhosis of liver or hepatitis that reduces the liver functioning.
Lack of glucose and oxygen to the brain can also result in this condition.Certain conditions can bypass the liver function, and directly damage the brain due to too much buildup of ammonia in the blood. High level of toxins circulating in blood can lead to permanent or temporary damage to brain.
There are several risk factors that may be responsible for metabolic encephalopathy such as;
- Among patients whose liver function is already compromised the risk of encephalopathy increases many folds if there is low oxygen level in the blood.
- Infection in patients suffering from liver damage.
- Serious illnesses that may change the whole metabolic process in the body.
- Over dose of certain medicines such as narcotics and sedatives.
- Dehydration caused due to diarrhea and vomiting.
- Exposure to various toxic chemicals and metals.
There are several wide arrays of disorders that may cause metabolic encephalopathy. Vitamin deficiencies, inherited diseases, etc at some point if not treated can lead to brain damage and eventually metabolic encephalopathy.
Signs And Symptoms Of Metabolic Encephalopathy
Metabolic encephalopathy normally presents as impairment in the brain function that results in loss of consciousness. The symptoms of metabolic encephalopathy include as:
- Agitation and confusion
- Change in behavior
- Stupor or coma
- Stiffness of muscles
- Tremor in finger and hands.
- Uncontrolled movement of hands and legs.
- Seizures in rare cases.
- Difficulty in speaking, slurred speech
The symptoms develop rapidly, but they resolve if metabolic encephalopathy is reversed. Quick treatment is necessary when the patient has lapsed into coma.
Treatment For Metabolic Encephalopathy
Metabolic encephalopathy is a serious medical condition which requires immediate medical attention. Patient needs to hospitalization as soon as possible. Treatment of metabolic encephalopathy is varied and may differ from one patient to another. It depends on the underlying cause that is responsible for this condition. The main immediate aim of treatment is to neutralize toxins that are built up in the blood.
In the hospital patient is continuously monitored for his respiratory and circulatory function. Reversing of the underlying problem is the basic priority. Even with treatment there is possibility of residual damage to the brain function. This may depend on the severity of the condition. During this period several medicines are used to treat the symptoms.