What is Hepatic Encephalopathy?
Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a complication of liver disease. This condition occurs when blood flow by-passes the liver (called portal hypertension) and enters into the rest of the circulation. This unfiltered blood carries toxins that enter the brain and affects normal brain function. This effect on the brain is called encephalopathy.
Some symptoms of HE include poor memory, confusion, sleepiness, being awake during the night and sleeping during the day, irritability, and tremor.
Using Lactulose to Treat Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE):
- The toxins that enter the bloodstream (and eventually the brain) are by-products of the foods we eat and our normal bacteria in the large intestine. Treatment is aimed at decreasing the amount of toxins that can be absorbed from the large intestine.
- Lactulose (brand names include Constulose, Enulose, Generlac and Kristalose) alters the acidity in the colon. This reduces the amount of toxins absorbed into the bloodstream.
- The correct dose of lactulose varies from one person to the next, and it may change from day to day for each individual. The correct dose will cause 3 to 4 loose bowel movements per day. Depending on what you eat, it may be necessary to alter the dose each day.
- Having loose stools every day can interfere with daily activities. Lactulose may also have the side effects of bloating, increased gas, and abdominal discomfort. Despite these side effects, it is important to keep up with the lactulose to properly treat the encephalopathy.
- Rule of thumb: If you or someone around you notices symptoms of encephalopathy, take another dose of lactulose. If symptoms continue with the use of lactulose, contact your health care provider at 612-871-1145.
If you have any questions about your HE symptoms, or taking lactulose, please call 612-871-1145.