Hepatic encephalopathy occurs when someone with advanced liver disease experiences worsening brain function because their liver is increasingly less capable of clearing toxins from the blood. These toxins build up and eventually make their way to the brain. The condition often starts slowly, and symptoms range from mild to life-threatening as it progresses. Identifying and treating hepatic encephalopathy early can slow its progression but may not cure it if the damage to the liver is too advanced.
Hepatic encephalopathy is common in people with chronic liver disease. As scar tissue takes the place of healthy tissue composed of hepatic cells, normal liver function is impaired. The liver eliminates a lot of toxins and by-products, but ammonia is the most pertinent one when it comes to hepatic encephalopathy. Ammonia is a by-product of protein metabolism; too much of it in the blood has significant effects on the brain.
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