Encephalitis: Overview

Encephalitis is a condition where there is inflammation of the brain. Virus infection, autoimmune inflammation, bacterial infection, and insect bites can cause this condition. There are occasions when there is no known cause.

It has minor flu-like symptoms such as a fever or a headache or it can present itself with no symptoms at all. The flu-like symptoms can be more severe at times. Confusion, convulsions or issues with mobility or senses such as sight or hearing are all possible symptoms of encephalitis.

Encephalitis can be life-threatening in some situations. Because it's difficult to predict how encephalitis may impact each person, prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical.


Symptoms

The majority of patients who have viral encephalitis experience flu-like symptoms, such as:

The signs and symptoms can be more severe at times such as :

  • Confusion, agitation, or hallucinations, symptoms of schizophrenia.
  • Seizures
  • Sensation loss or inability to move some parts of the face or body
  • Muscle deterioration
  • Speech or hearing difficulties
  • Consciousness loss (including coma)

Signs and symptoms in newborns and young children may include:

  • Bulging in an infant's skull's soft areas
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Stiffness in the body
  • Feeding problems or not waking up for a feeding
  • Irritability

When to see a doctor?

If you're suffering from any of these severe symptoms of encephalitis, seek medical help right there. A severe headache, fever, or a change in consciousness necessitates immediate medical attention.

Any signs or symptoms of encephalitis in infants and young children should be treated immediately.

Get the best treatment for Encephalitis from the best neurologists at Medicover Hospitals.


Causes

Encephalitis can be caused by autoimmune inflammation, viral and bacterial infections, and noninfectious inflammatory conditions. There are two types of encephalitis: acute and chronic.

  • Primary encephalitis is a type of encephalitis that affects the brain when a virus or other agent infects the brain directly. It's possible that the infection is localized or widespread. A primary infection could be the reactivation of a virus that was dormant during a previous illness.
  • Secondary encephalitis is a type of encephalitis that affects the brain A faulty immune system response to an infection elsewhere in the body causes this condition. Instead of attacking only the infected cells, the immune system accidentally attacks healthy brain cells. Secondary encephalitis, also known as post-infection encephalitis, occurs 2 to 3 weeks after the initial infection.

Viral causes:

The following viruses can cause encephalitis:

  • Herpes simplex virus It is a virus that causes genital herpes (HSV). HSV type 1 (which causes cold sores and blisters around the mouth) and HSV type 2 (which causes genital herpes) can both cause encephalitis. HSV type 1 encephalitis is uncommon, although it can cause serious brain damage or death.
  • Herpes viruses The Epstein-Barr virus, which causes infectious mononucleosis, and the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles, are two examples.
  • Enteroviruses The poliovirus and the coxsackievirus, for example, are viruses that induce flu-like symptoms, eye irritation, and abdominal pain.
  • Viruses spread by mosquitos There are certain viruses carried by mosquitos that can cause this condition. After being exposed to a mosquito-borne virus, symptoms of infection may occur from a few days to a few weeks.
  • Viruses spread by ticks Ticks or insects carry the virus, which causes encephalitis. Symptoms typically occur a week after being bitten by an infected insect.
  • Rabies Once infected with the rabies virus, which is usually transmitted through a bite from an infected animal, symptoms progress quickly to encephalitis.
  • Infections in children Secondary encephalitis used to be caused by common childhood infections like measles (rubeola), mumps, and German measles (rubella). Due to the availability of vaccines for these diseases, these causes are now uncommon in the United States.

Risk Factors

Encephalitis can strike anyone at any time. The following are some of the factors that may raise your risk:

  • Age In some age groups, certain kinds of encephalitis are more common or more severe. Most types of viral encephalitis put young children and older individuals at a higher risk.
  • Weak immune system Encephalitis is more likely in those who have HIV/AIDS, take immune-suppressing medicines, or have another illness that weakens the immune system.
  • Seasons In some seasons like the rainy season and winter season mosquito and tick-borne diseases are more common.

Preventions

The best method to avoid getting viral encephalitis is to avoid being exposed to viruses that can cause it. Make an effort to

  • Maintain hygiene Hands should be washed with soap and water regularly and thoroughly, especially after using the restroom and before and after meals.
  • Do not share personal things Utensils and other personal things should not be shared with others.
  • Teach healthy habits to your children Make sure kids maintain proper hygiene at home and at school, and that they do not share utensils.
  • Take vaccination Ensure that your own and your children's vaccines are up to date. Before you travel, talk to your doctor about the vaccinations that are suggested for particular destinations.

Lifestyle changes and Selfcare

For prevention use the following preventive measures:

  • Protective clothing If you're going outside in the evening or night when mosquitoes are most active, or in a wooded region with tall grasses and shrubs, when ticks are more abundant, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Cover your skin properly.
  • Mosquito repellant should be used Apply lotions or repelllents to the skin. Spray the repellant on your hands and then wipe it over your face to apply it. Apply sunscreen first if you're using both sunscreen and a repellent.
  • Insecticide Permethrin-based treatments, which repel and kill ticks and mosquitoes, are recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. Clothing, tents, and other outdoor gear can be sprayed with these products. The skin should not be exposed to permethrin.
  • Mosquitoes should be avoided Avoid needless activity in areas where mosquitoes are prevalent. If at all possible, stay indoors between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. Replace any broken screens or windows.
  • Remove stagnating water Remove any standing water in your yard that mosquitos can use to lay their eggs. Flowerpots or other gardening containers, flat roofs, old tires, and clogged gutters are all common issues.

Tips for small children's protection

Insect repellents are not suggested for infants under the age of two months. Instead, use mosquito netting to cover the baby’s carrier or stroller.

Repellents with 10% to 30% DEET are deemed safe for older infants and children. Children should avoid products that contain both DEET and sunscreen since reapplication — which may be necessary for the sunscreen component — will expose the child to too much DEET.

The following are some suggestions for applying mosquito repellent to children:

  • Always aid children in the application of insect repellant.
  • Spray on exposed body and clothing.
  • Apply repellant to your hands first, then to your child's face. Take extra precautions when it comes to your eyes and ears.
  • Don't use repellant on small children's palms since they might put their hands in their mouths.
  • When you get inside, wash the treated skin with soap and water.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will begin by performing a complete physical examination and reviewing your medical history. Following that, your doctor might suggest:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) An MRI or CT scan can identify any brain enlargement or another illness, such as a tumour, that is causing your symptoms.
  • Lumbar puncture A little amount of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the protective fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal column, is removed using a needle. Infection and inflammation in the brain might be indicated by changes in this fluid. CSF samples can sometimes be examined to determine the reason. This could be due to a virus, another illness, or an autoimmune condition.
  • Other laboratory tests Viruses and other infectious agents can be detected in blood, urine, or excretions from the back of the neck.
  • EEG (electroencephalogram) EEG (electroencephalogram) The electrical activity of your brain is recorded by electrodes attached to your scalp. A diagnosis of encephalitis might be made based on certain aberrant patterns.
  • Brain biopsy A small sample of brain tissue may be taken for testing on rare occasions. Only if symptoms are becoming worse and treatments aren't working is a brain biopsy recommended.

Treatment

Treatment for mild encephalitis usually consists of the following:

  • Rest in bed
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the brain

Medications

  • Antiviral medications can treat viral encephalitis by addressing the underlying cause.
  • Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections that can lead to encephalitis.
  • Antifungal medications can aid with fungal encephalitis.
  • Anticonvulsant drugs can help with seizures caused by encephalitis.
  • Surgery If doctors discover that encephalitis was caused by a tumour or other growth, they may undertake surgery to remove it.
  • Immunoglobulin therapy A doctor will provide a solution containing a large number of antibodies from donated blood during immunoglobulin therapy. This is frequently done through an IV.
  • The therapeutic plasma exchange This procedure removes blood from the body and filters out antibodies, which helps to protect the body from being attacked by them. The person's blood is then replaced with albumin or donated blood by a doctor. Albumin is a protein produced by the liver.

Dos and Don’ts

A person with Encephalitis has to follow set of do’s and don’ts to manage it and the related symptoms.

Do’sDon’ts
Take lot of sleep and rest.Pressurize your brain and take stress
Consume plenty of fluids. Consume caffeine beverages
Keep surroundings clean and dry.Take alcohol
Perform yoga exercises and meditations.Forget to take your medications on time.
Get properly diagnosed and treatedIgnore worsening symptoms

Encephalitis can be serious, make some lifestyle changes to manage this condition along with taking proper medical treatment.


Encephalitis Care at Medicover Hospitals

At Medicover Hospitals, we have the most trusted team of doctors and medical experts who are experienced in providing world class healthcare services to the patients with compassion and care. Our diagnostic department is equipped with modern technology and equipment to conduct the tests required for the diagnosis of Encephalitis based on which a dedicated treatment plan is designed. We have an excellent team of Neurologists specialists who diagnose and treat this condition with utmost precision that brings successful treatment outcomes.


Citations

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199007263230406
https://www.neurologic.theclinics.com/article/S0733-8619(05)70168-7/fulltext
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1474442215004019
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/247469
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