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Encephalopathy is a term used to describe brain disease or brain damage. It usually develops because of a health condition such as cirrhosis, or a brain injury. Symptoms may be mild or severe, and may be short-term or permanent.


Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • You cannot be woken.
  • You had a seizure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You had a seizure.
  • You feel confused, dizzy, or lightheaded.
  • Your heart is beating faster than is normal for you.
  • You have sudden shortness of breath.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You are sleeping more than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Blood pressure medicine may be given to raise or lower your blood pressure.
  • Antibiotics help treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • A vitamin B supplement may be needed if the level in your blood is too low.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage encephalopathy:

  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can worsen your condition. Alcohol can also cause new or worsening damage to your liver and brain. Ask your healthcare provider if it is safe for you to drink alcohol. Limit alcohol to 1 drink a day if you are a woman, or 2 drinks a day if you are a man. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
  • Eat low-protein and low-sodium foods, if directed. If your symptoms are caused by a liver disease, you may be asked to eat less protein and sodium (salt). Some foods high in protein include beef, pork, poultry (chicken, turkey), beans, and nuts. Some foods high in sodium include salty snacks, canned foods, condiments, deli meats, and cured meat such as bacon. Ask your dietitian for more information about foods to limit or avoid.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.