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Encephalitis

Encephalitis literally means an inflammation of the brain but it usually refers to brain inflammation caused by a virus. This severe and potentially life-threatening disease is rare. It's a rare disease that only occurs in approximately 0.5 per 100,000 individuals most commonly in children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems (i.e., those with HIV/AIDS or cancer). The illness occurs in two forms a primary form and a secondary form. Viruses like West Nile virus, which is transmitted through a mosquito bite, and Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which are transmitted thorough tick bites, can also cause encephalitis. Because lots of countries immunize against these diseases, it's rarer today that a person will develop encephalitis as a result of an illness like measles or mumps. The major risk is permanent brain damage. Although several thousand cases of encephalitis (also called acute viral encephalitis or aseptic encephalitis ) are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every year, experts suspect that many more may go unreported because the symptoms are so mild. Seeing your doctor and receiving timely treatment is important because the course of the disease is unpredictable.

Encephalitis is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the brain. This inflammation can produce a wide range of symptoms, including headache, or confusion and, in extreme cases, can cause brain damage, stroke, seizures, or even death. Infection of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, is called meningitis and inflammation of the brain itself is called encephalitis. Certain parasitic protozoal infestations, like by toxoplasma , can also cause encephalitis in people with compromised immune systems . But because of the milder nature of secondary encephalitis, doctors actually see more cases of primary encephalitis. Although viruses infecting the brain are a major cause of encephalitis, the body's reaction to infection itself can occasionally lead to encephalitis. This can happen if your immune system tries to fight off the infection and by mistake, attacks the nerves in the brain at the same time. This condition is called Post Infectious or Autoimmune Encephalitis. When a person has encephalitis, his or her brain becomes inflamed - inflammation means swelling and redness. Viral meningitis usually resolves in 10 days or less, but other types of meningitis can be deadly if not treated promptly. Anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis should see a doctor immediately.

Causes of Encephalitis

The common Causes of Encephalitis :

  • Encephalitis is caused by a group of virus known as arbovirus.
  • Chickenpox (see chickenpox entry)
  • Rabies (see rabies entry)
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Mumps
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; see AIDS entry)
  • Herpes zoster virus (shingles)
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Herpes B virus
  • Cytomegalovirus infection (EBV)
  • Viruses carried by mosquitoes (arboviruses)

Symptoms of Encephalitis

Some Symptoms of Encephalitis :

  • Drowsiness.
  • Fever.
  • Stiff neck occasionally.
  • Headache.
  • Loss of energy.
  • Seizures.
  • Light-sensitivity.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Confusion.
  • Clumsiness unsteady gait.
  • Tremor or convulsions.
  • Nausea and vomiting .

Treatment of Encephalitis

  • Anticonvulsants to control seizures, ventilation support, and feeding are the standard treatments.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed when the infection is caused by some organisms, such as certain bacteria. Anti-seizure medications (such a phenytoin) are used to suppress seizures. On rare occasions, potent anti-inflamatory drugs called "steroids" (such as dexamethasone) are used to reduce brain swelling.
  • Painkillers can be given to reduce the associated pain.
  • Surgical intervention may be needed in some cases
  • If brain function is severely affected, interventions like physical therapy and speech therapy may be necessary after the acute illness is controlled.
  • Sedatives may be needed to treat irritability or restlessness. Other medications, like acetaminophen, may be used for fever and headache.
  • Because encephalitis can cause death, seek treatment in a hospital's emergency department. Any home treatment to relieve the flulike symptoms should be carried out according to the doctor's advice and recommendation after diagnosis.

 


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