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Toxic encephalopathy
Classification and external resources

MRI of the brain in a patient with chronic toxic encephalopathy shows a generalized volume loss.
ICD-10 G92.
ICD-9 349.82
MeSH D020258

Toxic encephalopathy, also known as toxic-metabolic encephalopathy, is a degenerative neurologic disorder caused by exposure to toxic substances.[1] It can be an acute or chronic disorder. Exposure to toxic substances can lead to a variety of symptoms, characterized by an altered mental status.[2] Toxic encephalopathy can be caused by various chemicals, some of which are commonly used in everyday life.[3] Toxic encephalopathy can permanently damage the brain and currently, treatment is mainly just for the symptoms.[4]


Signs and symptoms

"Encephalopathy" is a general term describing brain malfunctions and "toxic" asserts that the malfunction is caused by toxins or chemicals.[5] The most prominent characteristic of toxic encephalopathy is an altered mental status. Toxic encephalopathy has a wide variety of symptoms,[6] which can include memory loss, small personality changes, lack of concentration, involuntary movements, nausea, fatigue, seizures, arm strength problems, and depression.[2][7][8]


In addition, chemicals, such as lead, that could instigate toxic encephalopathy are sometimes found in everyday products such as cleaning products, building materials, pesticides, air fresheners, and even perfumes. These harmful chemicals can be inhaled (in the cause of air fresheners) or applied (in the case of perfumes).[3][5] The substances diffuse into the brain rapidly. When they are not detoxified immediately, the symptoms of toxic encephalopathy begin to emerge.[5] However, in chronic situations, these effects may not become severe enough to be noticed until much later. Increased exposure time and increased concentration of the chemical solvents will worsen the effects of toxic encephalopathy.


Treatment is mainly for the symptoms that toxic encephalopathy brings upon victims, varying depending on how severe the case is. Diet changes and nutritional supplements may help some patients. To reduce or halt seizures, anticonvulsants may be prescribed. Dialysis or organ replacement surgery may be needed in some severe cases.[4]


Toxic encephalopathy is often irreversible. If the source of the problem is treated, by removing the toxic chemical from the system, further damage can be prevented, but prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals can quickly destroy the brain.[9] Severe cases of toxic encephalopathy can be life threatening.[10]


Research is being done by organizations such as NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) on what substances can cause encephalopathy, why they do this, and eventually how to protect, treat, and cure the brain from this condition.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "Neurotoxicity Syndromes". Medical Subject Headings. United States National Library of Medicine. 1999-11-03. Retrieved 2009-03-30.  
  2. ^ a b "What is Encephalopathy?". Disorders A-Z. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2009-03-30.  
  3. ^ a b "National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation". Retrieved 2009-03-30.  
  4. ^ a b "Is there any treatment?". Disorders A-Z. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  5. ^ a b c Rogers, Sherry (1996). "Toxic Brain Encephalopathy". TOTAL WELLNESS Newsletter. Prestige Publishing. Retrieved 2009-04-21.  
  6. ^ Bradley, p.1673
  7. ^ Fidler AT, Baker EL, Letz RE (May 1987). "Neurobehavioural effects of occupational exposure to organic solvents among construction painters". Occupational and Environmental Medicine 44 (5): 292–308. doi:10.1136/oem.44.5.292. Retrieved 2009-04-26.  
  8. ^ Chalela, Julio; Kasner, Scott (2007-11-28). "Acute toxic-metabolic encephalopathy in adults". UpToDate. Retrieved 2009-05-05.  
  9. ^ "What is the prognosis?". Disorders A-Z. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  10. ^ Upledger, John (07 2004). "Toxic Brain Injury(Encephalopathy)". Massage Today. MPA. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  
  11. ^ "What research is being done?". Disorders A-Z. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2009-04-12.  


  • Bradley, Walter (2004). Neurology in Clinical Practice (4 ed.). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9997625897.  

External links



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