Encephalopathies’ Effects on Children


Encephalopathy is a group of disorders that occur from inflammation and swelling of the brain tissues. Encephalopathy’s primary targets are infants and children, and it can either form via congenital disabilities or develop later. Encephalopathy comes in many forms. Some are permanent or irreversible, while others are temporary or reversible. Needless to say, encephalopathy’s inflammation and swelling of the brain tissues can lead to adverse changes in a patient’s behavior, performance and brain function.

Causes and symptoms of encephalopathy

There are several causes for developing encephalopathies. These include infections from bacteria and viruses; trauma; alcoholic cirrhosis; kidney issues; and more.

To prevent further damage, it is essential to be aware of symptoms while the encephalopathy is within its early stages. Common mild symptoms are memory loss and confusion, while severe symptoms can include dementia, seizures and coma.

Depending on the type of encephalopathy, symptoms can remain constant, happen periodically or worsen over time, resulting in permanent brain damage if timely treatment does not occur. Still, one thing remains constant: an altered mental state.

Encephalopathy and cannabinoids

Although there are several symptoms to assist in diagnosing encephalopathy, “…basic mechanisms, clinical consequences, and therapeutic options are limited,” according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information.

MELAS Syndrome (mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes) is an example of this. MELAS Syndrome is a form of a brain disease caused by DNA defects that develops in minors starting at the age of four. The mitochondria cell, or the body’s energy conversion cell, is altered, which then causes issues with energy transmitted to the brain. Children who have MELAS have to go through many medical trials, therapies and treatments since there is no reliable cure for this type of encephalomyopathy today.

Children and families that have exhausted their options of seeking a cure are beginning to resort to cannabinoids. With the ability to relieve symptoms such as severe pain and anxiety, cannabinoids are re-emerging with a potential to improve modern medicine.

In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a cannabidiol medication that has shown results in reducing seizures in children with epilepsy. Clinical Trials states, “… hemp oil products with high cannabidiol and low tetrahydrocannabinol ratios have been reported to provide seizure relief and cognitive improvement in children who take them.” Of course, further research is necessary to understand cannabinoids’ role in developing a cure for children suffering from encephalopathy.

The functionality of our brain is crucial to everyday living. With proper precautions and an understanding of what encephalopathy is, parents and families can institute measures to tone down the severity of symptoms. Research is in the works to find an answer to forms of brain disease that currently have no cure.

The functionality of our brain is crucial to everyday living.