Encephalitis — Causes, Symptoms, Tests & Treatments
Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of brain. It is a rare condition which occurs in early ages of life and decreases with age. The new born and old age people are more prone to Encephalitis. Encephalitis is usually caused by viral infection but it can also be caused by bacteria. Encephalitis is a complex situation which can be caused due to number of reasons. This condition is often referred as a rare complication of common infections.
Encephalitis can be characterized in two types primary Encephalitis and secondary Encephalitis. Primary Encephalitis occurs when a virus directly infects the brain. This infection may be widespread or may be concentrated in one place. Primary Encephalitis can also be a result of reactivation of a virus which is lying dormant in the body. Secondary Encephalitis occurs because of a faulty immune system reaction due to an infection elsewhere in the body. This condition rises when disease fighting proteins mistakenly attacks molecules in brain.
It is quite usual that the exact cause of Encephalitis is often unknown however the most commonly found reason behind Encephalitis is a viral infection. The other known causes of Encephalitis are fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses.
Encephalitis when in initial stage is commonly severe and serious which is followed by brain injury. The patient suffering from mild Encephalitis can display flu like symptoms like headache, nausea and vomiting, pain in joints, high fever. When Encephalitis becomes severe the symptoms shown by body are low energy and less appetite, confusion, disorientation, drowsiness, light sensitivity, stiff back and neck, clumsiness, unsteady gait, personality changes, hallucination, perception of foul smell.
The signs and symptoms which are shown by infants and young children are body stiffness, poor feeding, bulging in the soft spots of the skull in infants, crying which increases when the children is picked up, nausea and vomiting, inconsolable and constant crying.
The person suffering from Encephalitis can be recommended for following tests:
- Spinal tap – In this test a needle is inserted from the lower back of the brain in order to get cerebrospinal fluid which is a protective fluid surrounding the brain and spinal column. The presence of a particular type of immune system proteins and a particular profile of blood cells confirms the presence of inflammation in the brain.
- Brain imaging – Brain imaging is one of the first tests recommended by the doctors if they suspect Encephalitis. The images produced can reveal swelling of brain that may be causing the symptoms.
- Brain Biopsy – If symptoms worsen then a small sample of brain tissue can be taken for further analysis.
- Electroencephalogram – In this a series of electrodes are fixed at the scalp which records the electric activity of the brain.
- Other lab tests – The urine, excretions from the back of brain and blood samples can be taken in order to identify certain viruses or other infectious agents which can lead to Encephalitis.
Treatments Of Encephalitis
In case the patient is suffering from mild Encephalitis the patient is given anti inflammatory drugs, plenty of fluids and bed rest. In case of severe Encephalitis the patient is given antiviral drugs, supportive care and follow up therapy.
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