by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Glycine Encephalopathy; Hepatic Encephalopathy; Statin Encephalopathy; Uremic Encephalopathy; Hashimoto Encephalopathy; Hypertensive Encephalopathy; Toxic-metabolic Encephalopathy)


Encephalopathy is a disease of the brain that causes problem with how it works. There are many types. A key sign is a change in mental state, such as confusion and sudden mood changes.


There are many causes. Some common ones are:

  • Infection
  • Head injury
  • Brain tumor or pressure in the brain
  • Poor nutrition
  • Exposure to toxins
  • No oxygen or blood flow to the brain
Oxygen and Blood Flow to the Brain
oxygen brain lungs
Encephalopathy can happen when the brain does not get oxygen and blood.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Risk factors depend on the type of encephalopathy a person has. For example, alcohol use disorder can put a person at risk for Wernicke encephalopathy.


The main problem is a change in mental state, such as:

  • Memory loss that happens quickly or over time
  • Lack of focus
  • Problems thinking
  • Confusion
  • Mood changes
  • Behavior changes

Other problems may be:

  • Being very tired
  • Muscle weakness and unsteadiness
  • Lack of muscle control, such as jerking or twitching
  • Shaking
  • Moving the eyes without control
  • Seizures


The doctor will ask you or your caregiver about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

These tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis and find the cause:


The cause will need to be treated. This may be done with:

  • Medicine, such as antibiotics to treat infections
  • Dietary changes
  • Dialysis to remove toxins from the blood
  • An organ transplant


Many causes cannot be prevented. The risk of some causes may be lowered by:

  • Drinking alcohol in moderation
  • Eating a healthful diet that is rich and fruits and veggies
  • Not being around toxins


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 


Canadian Liver Foundation 

Health Canada 


Eencephalopathy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated March 27, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2020.

Hepatic encephalopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated July 23, 2019. Accessed April 16, 2020.

Wijdicks EF. Hepatic Encephalopathy. N Engl J Med. 2016 Oct 27;375(17):1660-1670.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 02/2020
  • Update Date: 04/16/2020