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Hepatic breath: a sign of liver problems

Aliento hepático: una señal de problemas en el hígado
Hepatic breath: a sign of liver problems

Bad breath is a condition that usually causes insecurity to people who suffer from it. However, it can be an alert to a malfunction in our liver.

Some somewhat advanced diseases affecting the liver tend to manifest symptoms that can be easily perceived by the people around us. In most cases these symptoms can generate insecurities for those who suffer from the liver condition.

When there are liver problems, it is common for the liver to give signals through bad breath, generating a bitter taste in the mouth. Hepatic encephalopathy and hepatic insufficiency may be the diseases causing the stench in the mouth.

Hepatic encephalopathy and the breath

This is a loss of brain function that occurs when the liver is no longer able to remove toxins from the blood. This is known as hepatic encephalopathy (HE). The problem may occur suddenly or it may develop slowly over time.

An important function of the liver is to change toxic substances in the body into harmless ones. These substances may be produced by the body (ammonia) or there may be substances that you consume (medications).

When the liver is damaged, these “toxins” can accumulate in the bloodstream and affect the function of the nervous system. This can result in HE.

The liver has a number of important tasks to perform in our body. One of them is to transform toxic substances in the body into harmless ones. These substances may be produced by the body (ammonia) or there may be substances that you consume (medications).

When the liver is damaged, these “toxins” can accumulate in the bloodstream and affect the function of the nervous system. This can result in HE.

Symptoms of HE are graded on a scale of 1 to 4. They may begin slowly and worsen over time. Among the first symptoms to appear is usually bad breath, which may have a musty or sweet odor.

Liver failure

Acute liver failure is the rapid (within days or weeks) loss of liver function, usually in a person who does not have pre-existing liver disease. 

Liver failure can occur as a result of any type of liver disorder, such as viral hepatitis (mainly hepatitis B or C), cirrhosis, and liver damage caused by alcohol or drugs such as acetaminophen (paracetamol).

Among the physical symptoms that may occur, bad breath stands out. It may smell musty or be a sweet stench.

Good oral hygiene may alleviate some of the breath problems. However, it is necessary to treat the liver disease so that the stench can be controlled at the root of the problem.

Oriana Arenas, redacción

Pasante de contenidos Fundahígado América

Eugenia Jiménez Alvaréz, revisión

Asistente a la coordinación Fundahígado América

Licenciada en Ciencias Biomédicas

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