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a collective term that designates a noninflammatory organic disease of the brain. Some encephalopathies are innate, resulting from embryopathy. Others are the result of infection, poisoning, trauma, or vascular disease of the brain. There are no specific manifestations. The most common encephalopathies resemble neuroses (asthenia, irritability, insomnia, headaches) or psychoses (narrowed scope of interests, passivity, emotional instability, vulgarity). Symptoms may include memory loss or mental deterioration.
Alcoholic encephalopathies are alcoholic psychoses. They may be acute, as in Wernicke’s encephalopathy (named for the German neuropathologist C. Wernicke, who described the condition in 1881), or chronic, as in Korsakov’s psychosis (named for S. S. Korsakov) and alcoholic pseudoparalysis. Lead encephalopathy is caused by chronic poisoning by lead salts.
Treatment for encephalopathies depends on the cause of the disease.