Encephalitis is a complex disease associated with inflammation of the human brain. Often referred to as a viral infection, the disease can be caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi, or autoimmune diseases. In addition, encephalitis can also appear due to severe head trauma, such as after an accident or severe bruising, or as a result of cancer.
This disease develops at any age, but most often, it can be found in children under 5 years of age or infants. In addition, the disease most actively shows itself at the end of the summer period and at the beginning of the autumn.
Symptoms can be very different, as the sources of the disease are completely different. These include:
- Vomiting and mental status changes.
Treatment is carried out depending on what specifically caused the disease, so almost every case is unique, and it’s not easy to find a solution on the Internet.
Most often, the doctor prescribes antibiotics, steroids, or antiviral drugs.
Timely diagnosis and treatment are essential for a good outcome. As with any medical condition, it’s important to check with your doctor if you suspect you may have encephalitis.
Each of us can get absolutely any disease. In addition, we can also get sick with those diseases that were previously not even studied by the bright minds of our planet.
However, as practice shows, there is always a group and risk factors where people are more likely to get the disease than others. Is it true that if you jump from the second floor, you will be more likely to damage your bones than the person lying on the sofa at that moment?
Several risk factors may increase your risk of developing inflammation of the brain, including:
- Age: Most often, infants or very old people can get this disease.
- Weak immune system: HIV/AIDS or cancer is most often the result of other diseases in people with low immune systems.
- Geography: People who live or travel in areas where certain viruses are common, such as the West Nile virus in Africa or the Japanese encephalitis virus in Asia, are also most likely to get the disease.
- Contact with sick animals: People who have infected animals or other animals with the encephalitis virus are at risk of contracting the disease.
- Contact with an infected person: People who have close contact with someone who has a viral infection that can cause encephalitis, such as herpes simplex virus or varicella-zoster virus, are at risk of contracting the disease.
What Are the Main Encephalitis Symptoms?
Symptoms of encephalitis can develop suddenly or gradually. They may include:
- Stiff neck
- Weakness or paralysis (can be temporary or permanent)
- Confusion or memory problems (can be temporary or permanent)
- Personality changes (can be temporary or permanent)
- Coma (in severe cases)
Encephalitis can cause mild to severe symptoms. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Infants and young children are more likely to have severe symptoms.
What Are the Common Encephalitis Causes?
A viral infection usually causes encephalitis. The most common viruses that cause encephalitis are:
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 is the same one that causes cold sores and genital herpes.
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2 is the same one that causes genital herpes.
- Varicella zoster virus (VZV): This virus is the same one that causes chickenpox and shingles.
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): This virus is the same one that causes mononucleosis (“mono”).
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV): This virus is a common infection that usually causes no symptoms of encephalitis.
- West Nile virus: This virus is spread by mosquitoes. It’s most common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In rare cases, it has been found in the United States.
Most often, the above bacteria can infect a person with encephalitis during sexual contact, contact with the saliva or mucus of an infected person, contact with a rash, and in almost all cases, all of these above viruses can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth.
Other viruses that can cause encephalitis include:
- Mumps virus.
- Measles virus.
- Rabies virus.
Bacterial infections in the brain that can cause encephalitis include:
- Lyme disease: This infection is caused by bacteria that are spread by ticks. It’s most common in the United States.
- Syphilis: This infection is caused by bacteria that are spread through sexual contact with an infected person. It’s most common in the United States.
- Tuberculosis: This infection is caused by bacteria spread through the air. It’s most common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
Fungal infections that can cause inflammation of the brain include:
- Cryptococcosis: This infection is caused by fungi found in bird droppings. It’s most common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
- Histoplasmosis: This infection is caused by fungi found in bird and bat droppings. It’s most common in the United States.
Encephalitis can also be caused by:
- Autoimmune disorders: These are conditions that occur when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body.
- Physical injury: This can include a blow to the head or exposure to certain chemicals.
- Tumors: These can be cancerous or noncancerous growths.
In some cases, inflammation of the brain has no known cause. This is called idiopathic encephalitis.
Due to the wide range of bacteria and other carriers of the virus that can infect humans, an accurate and timely diagnosis is 80% of the success rate in human treatment. Most often this is due to the fact that the disease is very severe and almost always leads, if not to a coma, then to the death of an infected person.
Probable Complications of the Disease
Encephalitis can cause serious complications, including:
- Memory problems
- Difficulty speaking
- Muscle weakness
What Is the Treatment for Encephalitis?
Treatment for encephalitis depends on the cause.
If a virus causes encephalitis, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication. These drugs can help to reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness.
If bacteria cause encephalitis, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. These drugs can help to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection.
If a fungus causes encephalitis, your doctor may prescribe antifungal medication. These drugs can help to kill the fungi that are causing the infection.
In some cases, encephalitis cannot be cured. Treatment for encephalitis will focus on relieving symptoms and supporting your nervous system. This can include:
- Pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
Read about recovering from encephalitis in our other article.
How Is Encephalitis Diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your medical history and symptoms. They will also do a physical exam.
Tests may include:
- Blood tests: These are used to look for infections or other conditions.
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): This procedure removes a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from your spine. The fluid will be tested for infections or other conditions.
- MRI: This type of scan uses magnetic waves to take pictures of your brain.
- CT scan: This type of scan uses x-rays to take pictures of your brain.
- EEG: This test records electrical activity in your brain.
- Brain biopsy: This procedure removes a small tissue sample from your brain. The tissue will be tested for infections or other conditions.
Methods to Prevent Infections in the Brain
There is no guaranteed way to prevent encephalitis. However, you can reduce your risk by taking steps to avoid infections and mosquito bites. These steps include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoiding close contact with sick people.
- Staying up to date on vaccinations, including the flu vaccine and the HPV vaccine.
- Wearing mosquito repellent when you are outdoors.
- Wearing long sleeves and pants when you are outdoors.
- Using air conditioning or screens on doors and windows to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
Encephalitis is a serious condition that can cause lasting damage to the brain. Early diagnosis and treatment for encephalitis are essential for preventing complications. Taking steps to avoid infections and mosquito bites can help to reduce your risk of encephalitis.
Remember that self-medication can be dangerous, especially when it comes to treating diseases that can lead to death. If you notice at least one of the symptoms of this disease, you should contact the clinic for help. For example, LoneStarNeurology is one of the leading clinics in the field of neurology.
Our specialists have extensive experience in treating and preventing many neurological diseases, so entrusting your health to them is not a shame. To get the help you need, just go to this link and fill out the form. After that, our specialists will contact you and provide further instructions.
What are the warning signs of encephalitis?
The warning signs of encephalitis are its key symptoms like fever, headache, seizures, weakness or paralysis, confusion or memory problems, personality changes (can be temporary or permanent), coma.
What happens if you get encephalitis?
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain’s active tissues caused by an infection or an autoimmune response. The inflammation causes the brain to swell, resulting in headaches, stiff neck, light sensitivity, mental confusion, and seizures.
Where is encephalitis most commonly found?
Encephalitis is a type of brain inflammation frequently caused by a viral infection. Arboviruses can cause encephalitis. Insects transmit arboviruses to humans and animals. Mosquitoes and ticks are the most common vectors in rural areas.
What is the survival rate of encephalitis?
Despite this heterogeneity, nearly all cases of encephalitis are admitted to the hospital, and the overall prognosis remains poor, with an inpatient mortality rate ranging between 5% and 20%. Those who survive are frequently left with long-term neurological deficits and functional limitations.