Hepatic encephalopathy is a potentially life-threatening neuropsychiatric condition that occurs among patients with liver dysfunction. It remains underdiagnosed and under-treated, resulting in poor quality of life for patients and a high burden on those who care for them. It is a debilitating condition that affects up to 40% of patients across Europe who suffer from advanced chronic liver disease. Despite the severity of hepatic encephalopathy, it remains underdiagnosed and under-treated, resulting in poor quality of life for patients and their carers.
HE is characterized by a loss of brain function, resulting in mild to severe incapacity, and is sometimes subtle and difficult to notice. HE occurs when the liver doesn’t remove sufficient toxins from the blood and is estimated to affect up to 200,000 people in Europe.
Symptoms and signs of hepatic encephalopathy may include:
- difficulty thinking
- personality changes
- poor concentration
- problems with handwriting or loss of other small hand movements
- poor judgment
- a musty or sweet breath odor
- drowsiness or lethargy
- severe personality changes
- confused speech
- shaky hands
- slow movements
Reduction of plasma ammonia remains the central therapeutic strategy for HE, but there is a need for newer novel therapies. The two most often used medicines to treat HE are lactulose and certain antibiotics.
If you are, or a person that you know is, suffering from the symptoms described above and are/is, contact your doctor or a liver patient organization in your country. European Liver Patients’ Association is an umbrella organization with the national patient organizations as members. List of our members can be found here.