What is encephalitis?
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain commonly caused due to a viral infection.
People having encephalitis might experience mild flu-like signs and symptoms for instance: fever, headache, or sometimes no symptoms at all.
There are two types of encephalitis
1. Primary encephalitis
2. Secondary encephalitis
In this article, we provide you with detailed information on
What are the symptoms of encephalitis?
The symptoms caused by encephalitis are listed as follows:
- Muscle or joint aches
- Fatigue or weakness
- Weakness of muscles
- Loss of sensation
- Loss of consciousness
- Hearing Problems
Children might have signs and symptoms that include:
- Bulging in the infant’s skull
- Nausea and vomiting
- Poor feeding
- Body stiffness
What are the types of encephalitis?
There are two types of encephalitis:
- Primary (Infectious) encephalitis:
In this condition, a virus
or another agent directly infects the brain. You might get an infection that is concentrated in one area or widespread.
It is divided into three main categories of Viruses:
1. Common viruses: This includes HSV i.e. herpes simplex virus (both HSV type-1 and HSV type -2) as well as EBV i.e. Epstein-Barr virus.
2. Childhood viruses: It include measles and mumps.
3. Arboviruses: These are generally spread by insects like mosquitoes etc. These
include tick-borne encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile encephalitis, Colorado encephalitis
- Secondary encephalitis:
It is caused due to a reaction from a faulty immune system to an infection in the body. The immune system starts attacking the healthy cells in the brain. There might be symptoms
appearing days or even weeks after the initial infection. According to studies, the exact cause of about 50% of encephalitis
cases are still not known.
What are the risk factors associated with encephalitis?
There are several factors that increase the risk of developing
- Age: Young children and older adults are usually at a greater risk of developing viral encephalitis.
- Weak immune system: People with HIV/AIDS, those who consume immune-suppressing drugs as well as have weak immune systems are at a greater risk of having encephalitis.
- Certain Geographical regions: There are certain
geographical regions in which Mosquito- or tick-borne viruses are found commonly.
Understanding Complications related to encephalitis
Encephalitis patients may experience the following complications of severe illness in them:
- Memory problems
- Persistent fatigue
- Speech impairments
- Personality changes
- Weakness or lack of muscle
- Difficulty breathing
- Intellectual disability
These complications are more likely to be developed in:
- Older adults
- People who have had coma-like symptoms
- People who didn’t get treated for encephalitis
How is encephalitis diagnosed?
You should consult your doctor if you get to see the symptoms of encephalitis in you. The following are the tests performed by the doctor:
Ø Spinal tap: Spinal tap also known as the lumbar puncture is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a needle into your lower back to collect a sample of
spinal fluid. The sample is tested to check the signs of infections.
(EEG): In this procedure, electrodes are used to record the activity of the brain.
EEG helps in determining the areas of the brain that are affected and the types of brain waves that occur in each area. If encephalitis is left
untreated it may lead to seizures and coma in later stages.
Ø CT scan or MRI: CT scans and MRI are performed for detecting changes in brain
structure. Brain imaging helps in identifying the affected parts of your brain
and determining the type of virus present in it.
Ø Blood Tests: Blood tests are performed along with other tests to check the
signs of a viral infection.
Ø Brain biopsy: In this procedure, small samples of brain tissues are taken for testing infection is present or not. This procedure is rarely performed as it has a high risk of complications associated with it.
Can encephalitis be treated?
Encephalitis can be treated for sure but the treatment usually focuses on relieving symptoms.
The treatment includes:
- · Pain killers
- · Taking rest
- · Corticosteroids (to reduce brain inflammation)
- · Lukewarm sponge baths
- · Mechanical ventilation
- · Sedatives
- · Anticonvulsants
- · Fluids
You may need to be hospitalized during the treatment of encephalitis with the instruction of your doctor.
How can encephalitis be prevented?
You should take certain precautions to avoid viruses that cause diseases:
- Try practicing good hygiene.
- Try not to share utensils.
- Teach your children good habits.
- Get yourself and your children vaccinated.
Outlook for encephalitis
The outlook for encephalitis totally depends on the severity of the inflammation. In mild cases of encephalitis, you may get better in a few days.
People with severe encephalitis may get better in a few weeks or months.
Sometimes it may result in permanent brain damage or even death.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Ø What happens if encephalitis goes untreated?
It is very dangerous if encephalitis is left untreated.
It leads to fits and later infection/ inflammation in the brain may lead to severe effects on other functions of the body including cardiovascular to the excretory system.
It can lead to permanent injury to the brain and resultant
It can lead to death also.
Ø What is acute encephalitis syndrome?
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) including Japanese Encephalitis (JE) is a group of clinically similar neurologic manifestations caused by several different viruses, bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemical/ toxins, etc. The outbreak of JE usually coincides with the monsoon and the post-monsoon period when the density of mosquitoes increases while encephalitis due to other viruses specially enteroviruses occurs throughout the year as it is a water-borne disease.
Ø What is autoimmune encephalitis?
Autoimmune encephalitis refers to a group of conditions that occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells, leading
to inflammation of the brain. Autoimmune encephalitis may be associated with antibodies to proteins on the surface of nerve cells, or within nerve cells.