Fetor Hepaticus: All Facts You Need to Know

How many of us have avoided a person for having foul breath? It is natural for people to shoo away someone whose breath has a foul odor. Probably we think the person in question doesn’t earn enough to buy toothpaste.

Have we ever stopped to think whether the person is suffering from some chronic liver problem, for which treatment is on the way? Yes, the person is most probably suffering from Fetor hepaticus. So, we should think twice before ridiculing a person for foul breath. It may be a sign of some fatal disease that requires urgent medical attention.

Fetor Hepaticus

What is Fetor Hepaticus?

Fetor hepaticus is a condition in which the liver faces difficulty while filtering out toxic substances from the human body. As a result, sulphuric substances mingle with the bloodstream and reach the lungs. This disease occurs due to severe problems with the liver. Fetor hepaticus is also known as the breath of the dead.

Fetor hepaticus Smell

Patients suffering from Fetor Hepaticus exhale strong, musty-smelling breath. The smell is so strong that, at times people need to wear a mask to keep the smell in control. The breath has a sweet, but fecal smell to it. Many people claim that it smells like a mixture of rotten eggs and garlic. The smell is so strong because ammonia and ketones are mingled with it. The patients have a high concentration of ammonia in their system, which gives rise to the smell. A similar smell is emitted from the chemistry labs in schools.

Fetor Hepaticus Symptoms

Fetor hepaticus manifests itself through several symptoms. They are as follows

  • Smelly Breath: The foremost symptom of this disease is a strong-smelling breath. The patient’s breath smells like a combination of rotten eggs and garlic.
  • Swelling: Fetor Hepaticus patients suffer from swollen legs and abdominal swelling.
  • Skin: Such patients suffer from yellow skin. The eyeballs also become yellow, as in the case of jaundice.
  • Confusion: Fetor Hepaticus leads to disorientation and confusion. The patients also feel drowsy.
  • Feeling unwell: Patients suffering from Fetor Hepaticus generally feel unwell. They cannot pinpoint the cause behind their feelings. However, they suffer from a sense of malaise. Nausea, vomiting, and pain in the upper abdomen are a few examples of the malaise that overcomes them
  • Impaired mental function: Veteran doctors suggest that Fetor Hepaticus impairs the normal functioning of the brain to a great extent. It leads to symptoms like confusion and orientation. However, researchers have still not been able to prove the reason behind the normal functioning of the brain.

Causes of Fetor hepaticus

Uncontrolled alcoholism is a cause of liver problems, the advanced stage of which leads to Fetor hepaticus.

Let us understand the other causes of this disease. The presence of ammonia and ketones in the breath may lead to it.  Fetor hepaticus occurs when the liver fails to function properly. It results in portal hypertension. Portal hypertension leads to excessive blood pressure in the veins of the liver. It hampers the blood flow through the liver. When blood doesn’t flow through the liver, the toxic substances present within it are not flushed out.  As a result, the toxic substances are spread out to the different parts of the body, particularly the lungs. Traces of toxic substances are found when the patient exhales.

what is fetor hepaticus

Fetor Hepaticus Treatment

Fecal Hepaticus indicates the beginning of hepatic encephalopathy. In this condition, the consciousness of the patient gets afflicted ultimately.  Toxins need to be removed from the blood, for fetor hepaticus treatment.

Veteran doctors claim that the root of a problem has to be addressed. Fetor hepaticus is a manifestation of the liver problem at an advanced stage. Hence, people need to cure advanced liver disease to get rid of Fetor Hepaticus.  Initially, treating this disease may be tough because Fetor Hepaticus indicates an advanced stage of liver damage. While it may be too late to remove the damage to the liver, people may use beta-blockers to slow down further liver damage.

Patients suffering from Fetor Hepaticus need to incorporate certain changes in their lifestyle, to slow down the liver problem.

  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid medicines that cause depression and affect the central nervous system.
  • The patients should maintain a rigid diet. Very few patients are unable to tolerate protein. A healthy dose of vegetable protein is incorporated into their diet.

Patients who are suffering from malnutrition, in addition to Fetor Hepaticus, may include liquid protein supplements as a part of their diet. Zinc needs to be administered as a part of their diet. Doctors recommend the patients reduce the intake of salt and avoid the consumption of alcohol. An alkaline diet, coupled with vitamin supplements may slow down liver damage. The patients are generally tolerant to a diet rich in plant protein. There have been a few instances when they were fount intolerant to a diet rich in red meat protein.

Fetor hepaticus occurs during the final stages of liver failure. The patients bleed at the slightest trigger. The first thing that a doctor will prescribe in case of this disease is a liver function test. A liver biopsy may also be in the pipeline, due to this distinctive smell in the breath. A liver biopsy involves taking a tiny sample of the liver and observing it under a microscope. The doctors may prescribe a CT scan or an ultrasound to check whether portal hypertension exists.

A full cure of the disease at this stage might turn out to be difficult. The reason behind this is that Fetor hepaticus is diagnosed at a late stage of liver problems. A liver transplant may increase life expectancy by five to ten years. A drastic change in lifestyle and alcohol withdrawal may add to the fetor hepaticus life expectancy. The patients need to consult their doctor, to find out what changes they may incorporate into their lifestyle, to keep this disease in check.