When liver damage occurs, its detoxification mechanism does not effectively function. The result is a build-up of toxins and byproducts in the blood, including ammonia. Elevated levels of ammonia can be caused by cirrhosis, alcoholism or liver damage caused by hepatitis. High ammonia levels can have a negative impact on vital organs, especially the brain. A serious medical condition called hepatic encephalopathy, a disorder of the nervous system and brain, can cause confusion, personality changes, drowsiness and disorientation. Failure to decrease ammonia levels can lead to multiple organ failure and even prove fatal.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Things you need
- Physical examination
- Prescription laxative
- High fibre diet
- Surgical intervention
Visit your doctor. You will need a complete medical evaluation to determine your liver function. Your doctor will recommend blood tests to check your ammonia levels, and a blood test that checks the levels of your liver enzymes. You might also undergo diagnostic imaging, including an ultrasound and MRI that can detect liver changes and abnormalities. Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on the results of your examination and test results.
Ask about lactulose. This prescription laxative helps your intestines evacuate toxins such as ammonia, by speeding up the way your food is passed through the gastrointestinal system. Talk to your doctor about lactulose side effects, such as abdominal cramping and diarrhoea, before you begin treatment.
Consider an enema. In conjunction with prescription laxative medication, an enema can help your body get rid of excess ammonia. Enemas work mechanically to help evacuate your bowels and remove high levels of ammonia. For those who cannot tolerate the side effects of lactulose, enemas are a viable alternative. Talk to your doctor about the proper way to administer an enema and never give yourself an enema without approval from your doctor.
Consume a high-fibre diet. Eating foods high in fibre can help your digestive system work more effectively and bulk up your bowel movements. Treatment for high ammonia levels can cause loose stools, so eating a high-fibre diet can relieve loose, watery stools, while promoting adequate bowel movements.
Think about surgery. If your ammonia levels are resistant to treatment, and if you are at risk for liver failure or other critical medical conditions, your doctor might recommend liver transplantation. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this major surgical procedure, and if it will improve your quality of life.
Tips and warnings
- Talk to your doctor before taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen. Certain analgesics are safer to take than others when you have a liver condition and elevated ammonia levels.
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages. Drinking alcohol is an important risk factor for liver disease, and doing so can skyrocket your ammonia levels if you have existing liver damage.
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