Causes of Encephalopathy

Various infections including bacteria, viruses, parasites and prions may cause temporary or permanent damage to the brain leading to specific cases of Encephalopathy. For instance, prions cause the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy commonly known as the Mad Cow disease. This transmissible disease spreads amongst cattle and even humans through affected meat ingestion and is fatal.

  • Restricted oxygen supply to the brain can cause brain damage, resulting in Encephalopathy. The lack of oxygen may occur due to brain injury, obstruction in the brain or air passage, certain allergies may cause anoxia (lack of oxygen) and in some cases, fetus may develop Encephalopathy due to oxygen obstruction during labor.
  • Alcohol abuse may lead to cirrhosis of the liver. When the liver is unable to filter toxic waste out of the body, it may result in toxins travelling to the brain via the blood stream causing Hepatic Encephalopathy. Similarly, a kidney failure may result in Encephalopathy.
  • Metabolic diseases such as cholesterol or diabetes result in nutritional imbalances. Low levels of sodium and potassium or dehydration often seen in individuals on diuretics may cause Encephalopathy. Autoimmune disorders, overproduction of glycine and mitochondrial dysfunction may also result in Encephalopathy.
  • A tumor in the brain may put pressure on the brain causing Encephalopathy
  • Prolonged inhalation of toxic chemicals, exposure to radiation and drug abuse.   

Risk factors, which may play a role in triggering Hepatic Encephalopathy include:

  • Dehydration (lack of water, sometimes caused by intake of diuretics)
  • Restricted oxygen supply to the body
  • Excess protein leading to hyper ketosis
  • Severe gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation
  • Some drugs and medication including tranquilizers or drugs to suppress the nervous system may cause Hepatic Encephalopathy
  • Certain infections may trigger Hepatic Encephalopathy as they attack the nervous system
  • Liver and kidney disorders may turn severe.
  • Internal bleeding or pus formation in vital organs may give rise to Hepatic Encephalopathy
  • Post surgery infections, bruises or trauma may increase the risk of developing Hepatic Encephalopathy.