Has a friend or family member of yours recently been diagnosed with HE? You probably have many questions and would like to better understand the condition. This page will give you an initial overview, but it cannot replace a doctor’s consultation.

What are typical signs of hepatic encephalopathy?

Often it is relatives or friends who first notice typical changes. Therefore, be particularly attentive when you notice the following signs of hepatic encephalopathy:

  • Decreasing ability to concentrate
  • Deterioration of short-term memory
  • Limited fine motor skills
  • Decrease in responsiveness
  • Mood swings and character changes

Especially if these symptoms are associated with chronic liver disease (mostly cirrhosis), the diagnosis of hepatic encephalopathy must be considered. Further investigations help to confirm the diagnosis.

Learn more about the symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy.

What is hepatic encephalopathy?

Hepatic encephalopathy is a liver-induced brain dysfunction:

If the liver can no longer perform its detoxification function in the case of chronic damage, a particularly serious complication of cirrhosis of the liver occurs. As a result, harmful metabolic products, especially ammonia, enter the brain in high concentrations.

Learn more about hepatic encephalopathy.

What are the causes of hepatic encephalopathy?

Several processes in the body are involved in HE. In particular, the affected liver can no longer ensure that ammonia is excreted sufficiently from the body. Ammonia is produced by metabolic processes mainly in the intestines, muscles and kidneys, e.g. in the digestion of dietary proteins. If the liver no longer works sufficiently, ammonia enters the brain via the bloodstream. That leads to an increasing poisoning and as a consequence to the disturbance of the brain function.

Learn more about the causes of hepatic encephalopathy.

How can you support people with hepatic encephalopathy?

In this section, you can find some general tips that are not a substitute to a healthcare professional’s advice. If you are insecure or have questions, please always consult a doctor.

  • Learn as much as possible about the condition to better understand the friend’s or family member’s situation. The more you know, the more you can support the affected person.
  • Help with everyday tasks such as body care and dressing.
  • Inform yourself about the do’s and don’ts of the diet and keep an eye on dietary habits.
  • Schedule doctor’s appointments and help giving medication.
  • Immediately inform a doctor if you notice any changes in physical or mental behavior.