Encephalopathy is condition caused by diseases that affect large portions of the brain. The disease may affect the function and/or the structure of the brain leading to a wide range of physical and mental symptoms. An altered mental state, such as confusion and sudden mood changes, is often a hallmark of encephalopathy.

There are several different type of encephalopathy based on the cause. Treating the disease or injury causing the encephalopathy may reverse symptoms in some. Some forms of encephalopathy may result in lasting changes in the brain. If the brain injury is severe and cannot be reversed, the disease can be fatal.

Encephalopathy is caused by an infection or widespread injury of the brain. Some common causes include:

  • Infection
  • Head trauma
  • Metabolic dysfunction—causes an imbalance in nutrients and electrolytes the brain needs to function
  • Brain tumor or increased pressure on the skull
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Poor nutrition—causes an imbalance in nutrients and electrolytes the brain needs to function
  • No oxygen or blood flow to the brain
  • Organ failure

Oxygen and Blood Flow to the Brain
oxygen brain lungs
If the flow of oxygen to the brain is disrupted, it can cause encephalopathy.
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