Memory problems

If you find you keep forgetting things, it means your brain isn’t working so well.

People with liver disease may find they suddenly start forgetting things, or their memory problems can build up over a long time. They might also feel confused and find it hard to concentrate.

Why you get memory problems

The liver’s job is to remove toxins (poisons) from the body. When the liver doesn’t work properly, the toxins build up in the blood. They can stop the nervous system from working properly, including the brain.

People with liver disease often have other problems like heart disease or circulation problems. These can also affect how the brain works.

Mental health problems are also common in people with liver disease. Having a condition like depression or anxiety can also affect your memory. Dementia is thought to be more common in people who have liver disease.

Tips for managing memory problems

Here are some tips for keeping your brain working.

  • Avoid harmful substances like alcohol; they affect your liver and also your brain
  • Keep mentally active – read, learn something new
  • Make sure you get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Pay attention and concentrate on things around you
  • Use a notepad or your phone to record things and set reminders
  • Organise things so they are easy to find

When to see your doctor

Forgetfulness and other brain issues like problems with concentration, changes in sleeping habits, drowsiness, or falling a lot can be a sign you have hepatic encephalopathy. This is a serious condition that can lead to unconsciousness or coma.

See your doctor straight away if you think you or someone you know might have hepatic encephalopathy. Other symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy include:

  • Being vague and having difficulty following a conversation or reading a book
  • Being very disorientated
  • Being very confused or drowsy
  • Strange behaviour
  • Personality changes
  • Slurred speech
  • Moving slowly
  • Being unconscious and unresponsive

References

Medline Plus. Loss of brain function – liver disease.

Shang Y, Widman L, Hagström H. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Risk of Dementia: A Population-Based Cohort Study. Neurology. 2022 Aug 9;99(6):e574-e582. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200853. Epub 2022 Jul 13.
Dementia Australia. Memory changes.

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