What causes elevated blood ammonia?

Elevated blood ammonia may be related to a variety of conditions, including hereditary disorders or damage to the liver or kidneys. Elevated blood ammonia levels are occasionally seen in infants and children, and can be related to a hereditary condition or Reye’s syndrome (condition characterized by brain and liver swelling and dysfunction). In adults, causes vary and can include kidney or liver damage, drug and alcohol abuse, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Causes of elevated blood ammonia level in infants and children

In infants, children and adolescents, elevated blood ammonia levels may be linked to hereditary and other disorders such as:

  • Congenital disorder of ammonia metabolism (urea cycle abnormality)
  • Hemolytic disease of the newborn (disease resulting from blood type incompatibility between mother and fetus)
  • Liver or kidney damage
  • Reye’s syndrome (condition characterized by brain and liver swelling and dysfunction)

Causes of elevated blood ammonia level in adults

In adults, elevated blood ammonia levels have been linked to:

What are the risk factors for elevated blood ammonia level?

Certain factors have been shown to increase the risk of developing elevated blood ammonia level. Not all people with risk factors will suffer elevated blood ammonia level. Risk factors for elevated blood ammonia level include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Family history of hereditary urea cycle disorders
  • Recent illness or infection
  • Smoking
  • Use of certain drugs such as barbiturates, diuretics and narcotics

Reducing your risk of elevated blood ammonia level

You may be able to lower your risk of elevated blood ammonia level by:

  • Avoiding use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco
  • Controlling your blood pressure
  • Eating a low protein diet if you have a history of liver disease
INTRODUCTION

What is an elevated blood ammonia level?

Ammonia is a nitrogen waste compound that is normally excreted in the urine. An elevated blood ammonia level is an excessive accumulation of ammonia in the blood. An elevated blood ammonia level occurs when the kidneys or liver are not working properly, allowing waste to remain in the bloodstream. Ammonia, like many other waste products in the body, can be poisonous to your cells, and an elevat... Read more about elevated blood ammonia levelintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of elevated blood ammonia level?

Symptoms of elevated blood ammonia level are related to decreased kidney or liver function. When waste products, such as ammonia, build up in the blood, they can circulate throughout the body and act as toxins. Elevated blood ammonia level is typically a progressive condition. At its onset, you may not notice any symptoms at all, or you may have only mild symptoms. As the disease worsens, you m... Read more about elevated blood ammonia levelsymptoms

TREATMENTS

How is elevated blood ammonia level treated?

In some cases, especially in infants, elevated blood ammonia level may be mild enough that it will resolve on its own without any treatment. In more serious cases, however, treatment is necessary because the buildup of ammonia in the bloodstream can have serious consequences. Treatment for elevated blood ammonia level is aimed at removing toxic body waste, such as ammonia, from the bloodstream.... Read more about elevated blood ammonia leveltreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: May 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Kidneys and the Urinary System


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