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Not only does alcoholic liver disease affect liver function itself, it also damages the brain. The liver breaks down alcohol-and the toxins it releases. During this process, alcohol's byproducts damage liver cells. These damaged liver cells no longer function as well as they should and allow too much of these toxic substances, ammonia and manganese in particular, to travel to the brain.These substances proceed to damage brain cells, causing a serious and potentially fatal brain disorder known as hepatic encephalopathy.

Hepatic encephalopathy causes a range of problems, from less severe to fatal.These problems can include:

-Sleep disturbances -Mood and personality changes -Anxiety -Depression -Shortened attention span -Coordination problems, including asterixis, which results in hand shaking or flapping -Coma -Death

Doctors can help treat hepatic encephalopathy with compounds that lower blood ammonia concentrations and with devices that help remove harmful toxins from the blood. In some cases, people suffering from hepatic encephalopathy require a liver transplant, which generally helps improve brain function.

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