Encephalitis is a potentially life-threatening by-product of viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections. The word encephalitis literally means brain inflammation, and can either be primary, (starting in the brain), or secondary (originating in another part of the body and spreading to the brain).
Encephalitis can be caused by many different situations. The most common encephalitis cases are a result of viral infections like herpes, rabies from the bites of infected animals, and viruses transmitted by mosquito’s, biting flies, and ticks.
There are some risk factors that influence your chances of developing encephalitis, and this includes persons with weakened immune systems and those people living in areas where mosquito-born illnesses are prevalent.
Symptoms of encephalitis include the very mild, virus-type symptoms like joint pain, fever, exhaustion, lethargy, irritability and headache. Serious cases of encephalitis can cause hallucinations, seizures, personality variations, paralysis, tremors, or eventual loss of consciousness. These severe symptoms require immediate emergency medical intervention.
Encephalitis is diagnosed by using brain imaging tests like CT and MRI scans. EEG’s, blood testing, and lumbar punctures may also be employed to diagnose the presence of encephalitis.
Mild cases of encephalitis are treated in much the same manner as a flu virus. Adequate rest and hydration in conjunction with over the counter pain relievers can often ease the symptoms while this viral infection runs its course.
Severe cases of encephalitis require medical attention. Treatment for serious cases of encephalitis includes pharmacological therapies with anti-viral medications proven to work in situations involving resistant viruses. Anti-inflammatory and steroid medications may be used to help reduce brain swelling. In addition to anti-viral and anti-inflammatory medications, an anticonvulsant medication may be prescribed to prevent seizures that can be a result of brain swelling.
After severe episodes of encephalitis, patients may require occupational, speech, and physical therapies to return to their normal level of function.
If you suspect that you or your child has developed encephalitis, it is very important to seek the advice of your physician to avoid any further complications.