Encephalitis (Inflammation of The Brain): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Encephalitis (Inflammation of The Brain): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain. Symptoms are often mild including a headache, fever, confusion, a stiff neck, and vomiting. Encephalitis is caused by viruses such as herpes simplex virus and rabies as well as by bacteria, fungi or parasites. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and supported by blood tests, medical imaging, and analysis of cerebrospinal fluid.

Treatment of encephalitis may include antiviral medications, anticonvulsants, and corticosteroids. In 2015, it was estimated that encephalitis has affected 4.3 million people and resulted in 150,000 deaths worldwide.

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How Does Encephalitis Affect Your Body?

The effects of encephalitis on the body may include paralysis, poor coordination, and fatigue along with hearing problems and vision trouble. Serious cases of encephalitis can cause a person to suffer respiratory arrest or the person may stop breathing. In some cases, encephalitis can lead to coma and death.

What Are The Causes of Encephalitis?

  • Viral encephalitis – It can occur either as a direct effect of an acute infection or as one of the sequelae of a latent infection. The most common identifiable cause of viral encephalitis is from herpes simplex infection while other causes of acute viral encephalitis are rabies virus, poliovirus, and measles virus.
  • Bacterial encephalitis – Inflammation of the brain can be caused by a bacterial infection, such as bacterial meningitis or may be a complication of a current infectious disease syphilis.
  • Parasitic or protozoal infestations – Toxoplasmosis, malaria, or primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, can also cause encephalitis in people with compromised immune systems.
  • Limbic encephalitis – It refers to inflammatory disease confined to the limbic system of the brain. Also, some cases of limbic encephalitis are of autoimmune origin.
  • Autoimmune encephalitis – This causes catatonia, psychosis, abnormal movements, and autonomic dysregulation. Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is the most common auto-immune form and later causes ovarian teratoma in 58 percent of affected women 18-45 years of age.
  • Encephalitis lethargica – This is identified by high fever, headache, delayed physical response, and lethargy. The cause of this is not known yet.
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What Are The Risk Factors of Encephalitis?

  • Age – Young children and older adults are at greater risk of most types of viral encephalitis.
  • Weakened immune system – HIV/AIDS patients who take immune-suppressing drugs or have another condition causing a weakened immune system are at increased risk of encephalitis.
  • Climate – Mosquito and tick-borne diseases tend to be more common during summer.
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What Are The Symptoms of Encephalitis?

  • Symptoms in adult patients include acute onset of fever, headache, confusion, and sometimes seizures.
  • Symptoms in younger children or infants include irritability, poor appetite, and fever.
  • Often stiff neck is observed due to the irritation of the meninges covering the brain, indicating that the patient has either meningitis or meningoencephalitis
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How is Encephalitis Diagnosed?

  • Brain scan – MRI is done to determine inflammation and differentiate from other possible causes.
  • EEG – This is done to monitor brain activity since if encephalitis is present it will produce an abnormal signal.
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) – Changes in cerebrospinal fluid can indicate infection and inflammation in the brain.
  • Blood test and urine analysis – This is done to test for virus or other infectious agents.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) – This is done to detect the presence of viral DNA which is a sign of viral encephalitis.
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How To Prevent And Control Encephalitis?

  • Practice good hygiene – Wash hands frequently with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before and after meals.
  • Don’t share utensils – Don’t share tableware and beverages with anyone.
  • Teach your children good habits – Children should practice good hygiene and avoid sharing utensils at home and school.
  • Get vaccinations – immunization of children should be up-to-date and before travelling to another country get vaccinated accordingly.
  • Wear protective clothes – Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if outside between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

Treatment of Encephalitis- Allopathic Treatment

  • Physical therapy – This therapy improves strength, flexibility, balance, motor coordination and mobility.
  • Occupational therapy – This therapy develops everyday skills and to use adaptive products that help with everyday activities.
  • Speech therapy – This therapy helps relearn muscle control and coordination to produce speech.

Medications-

  • Antiviral medicationsAcyclovir, ganciclovir is used if a virus is the cause of disease.
  • Antibiotics – These are used if bacteria is the cause.
  • Steroids – These are used to reduce brain swelling.
  • Sedatives – Sedatives are given for restlessness.
  • Acetaminophen – This is given for fever.

Treatment of Encephalitis- Homeopathic Treatment

  • Belladonna – This is for high fever with delirium.
  • Gelsemium – This is prescribed when a headache, vertigo, and pain in neck and shoulder occurs, with or without fever.
  • Helleborus – When inflammation of the brain with stupefaction occurs, Helleborus is prescribed.
  • Hyoscyamus – This is prescribed when inflammation of the brain, congestion of head and face occurs.
  • Stramonium – This is given when inflammation of brain with heat and pulsation of vertex occurs.
  • Arsenic alba – This is prescribed when degenerative changes occur in the brain or any organ begin.

Encephalitis – Lifestyle Tips

  • Stay away from infected people.
  • Participate in various therapies to help get better.

What Are The Recommended Exercises For a Person With Encephalitis?

Breathing exercises are recommended to practice daily for 10 to 15 minutes.

Encephalitis & Pregnancy – Things to Know

  • Encephalitis during pregnancy can be life-threating for the fetus if not treated properly.
  • Encephalitis can be caused by maternal infections such as herpes simplex virus (HSV), Group B Strep (GBS), urinary tract infections (UTI), bacterial vaginosis (BV), and chorioamnionitis, which travels to the baby during birth.
  • These infections can cause sepsis, septic shock, and meningitis, which cause encephalitis.
  • Septic shock can deprive a baby of oxygen and cause hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
  • Encephalitis caused by meningitis is called meningoencephalitis, which is a form of neonatal encephalopathy which causes brain swelling in the baby’s brain.
  • This can cause cerebral palsy, seizures, developmental delay and other problems in the baby.
  • When encephalitis in pregnancy is suspected, a combination of acyclovir and penicillin is recommended because the potential benefits far outweigh the risks.

Common Complications Related to Encephalitis

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble speaking
  • Memory problems
  • Hearing problem

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