Encephalitis (brain infection): Causes, description, Treatment

Head | Neurology | Encephalitis (brain infection) (Disease)

Encephalitis (brain infection): Description

Encephalitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the brain. This condition causes problems with the brain and spinal cord function. The inflammation causes the brain to swell, which leads to changes in the persons neurologic condition, including mental confusion and seizures.

Symptoms include headache, fever, confusion, drowsiness, and fatigue. More advanced and serious symptoms include seizures or convulsions, tremors, hallucinations, and memory problems.

The following are the most common symptoms of encephalitis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include: headache ; sensitivity to light ; neck stiffness ; sleepiness or lethargy ; increased irritability ; seizures ; skin rashes ; difficulty talking and speech changes.

Causes and Risk factors

Most cases of encephalitis are caused by a viral infection that resolves without complications. Infants, elderly individuals, and those with weakened immune system are at higher risk for serious brain swelling and death from viral encephalitis.

Encephalitis often is preceded by a viral illness such as an upper respiratory infection, or a gastrointestinal problem such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. The extent of the problem is dependent on the severity of the encephalitis and the presence of other organ system problems that could affect the person. In severe cases, a breathing machine may be required to help the patient breathe easier.

Encephalitis (brain infection): Treatment and Diagnosis

The key to treating encephalitis is early detection and treatment. A person with encephalitis requires immediate hospitalization and close monitoring.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the swelling in the head and to prevent other related complications. Medications to control the infection, seizures, fever, or other conditions may be used

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