All you need to know about Encephalitis | Causes, symptoms, treatment

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Lucknow: Encephalitis, which can be caused by bacteria as well as virus is a rare but a fatal disease.  It is an inflammation in the brain tissue which mainly affects infants, older adults or the one who has a weaker immune system.

It may also be known that encephalitis occurs in 1 in every 1,000 cases of measles.

Since, every year people lose their lives because of this epidemic disease. Let us know how is it caused..what are its symptoms..how can we treat it…

How is encephalitis caused?

  • It is most commonly caused by different types of viruses.
  • Herpes viruses, among which herpes simplex virus is particularly important. Arboviruses, which are transmitted by blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes.
  • Apart from virus, this life threatening disease can also be caused by bacteria meningitis.

Note: Certain parasitic or protozoal infestations, such as toxoplasmosis, malaria, or primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, can also cause encephalitis in people with compromised immune systems.

ALSO READ: Common mosquito can carry Zika virus, says scientists

Encephalitis is basically of two types:

  • Primary
  • Secondary

What is Primary encephalitis?

It occurs when virus directly infects the brain and spinal cord.

What is Secondary encephalitis?

It occurs when an infection starts elsewhere in the body and then travels to your brain.

Symptoms of encephalitis

Mild symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Lethargy (exhaustion)

ALSO READ: Now ‘super-infected’ mosquitoes to reduce risk of Zika virus

Severe symptoms include:

  • Fever of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Slower movements
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Unconsciousness

Risk factors:

  • The disease is mainly caused in older adults, children under age 1 or people with weak immune systems.
  • People living in the mosquitoes or tick surrounded area are at more risk to get this infection as they may carry the viruses that cause encephalitis.
  • People have more chances to be suffered from this disease in summer as the viruses and insects are more active in this weather in comparison to others.

How is encephalitis diagnosed?

Spinal Tap or lumbar puncture:

In this procedure, your doctor will insert a needle into your lower back to collect a sample of spinal fluid. They will test the sample for signs of infection.

Brain imaging with CT scan or MRI

CT scans and MRI detect changes in brain structure. They can rule out other possible explanations for symptoms, such as a tumor or stroke. Certain viruses have a tendency to affect certain areas of the brain. Seeing what parts of your brain are affected can help determine what type of virus you have.

Electroencephalograph (EEG)

An EEG uses electrodes (small metal discs with wires) attached to the scalp to record brain activity. An EEG does not detect the virus that causes encephalitis, but certain patterns on the EEG may alert your neurologist to an infectious source of your symptoms. Encephalitis can lead to seizures and coma in later stages. That’s why the EEG is important in determining the areas of the brain that are affected and the types of brain waves that occur in each area.

Blood tests

A blood test can reveal signs of a viral infection. Blood tests are rarely performed alone. They usually help diagnose encephalitis along with other tests.

Brain biopsy

In a brain biopsy, your doctor will remove small samples of brain tissue to test for infection. This procedure is rarely performed because there’s a high risk of complications. It’s usually only done if doctors can’t determine the cause the brain swelling or if treatment isn’t working.

What are the complications that would be faced if you are diagnosed with encephalitis?

  • loss of memory
  • behavioral/personality changes
  • epilepsy
  • fatigue
  • physical weakness
  • intellectual disability
  • lack of muscle coordination
  • vision problems
  • hearing problems
  • speaking issues
  • fatigue
  • coma
  • difficulty breathing
  • death

Complications are more likely to develop in certain groups, such as:

  • older adults
  • people who have had coma-like symptoms
  • people who didn’t get treatment right away

People with encephalitis may also experience:

  • Paralysis
  • Loss of brain function
  • Problems with speech, behavior, memory, and balance.

How can we treat encephalitis?

Anti-viral medications can help treat herpes encephalitis. However, you may immediately visit a doctor if you are suffering from any of the above symptoms.

The treatment may include:

  • rest
  • painkillers
  • corticosteroids (to reduce brain inflammation)
  • mechanical ventilation (to help with breathing)
  • lukewarm sponge baths
  • anticonvulsants (to prevent or stop seizures)
  • sedatives (for restlessness, aggressiveness, and irritability)
  • fluids (sometimes through an IV)

You may need to be hospitalized during treatment, especially with brain swelling and seizures.

Though, the disease is not preventable, but lowering the risk is in our hand. You may lower the risk by getting vaccinated by such viruses.

Make sure that infants recieves vaccinations for these viruses.

If you are a resident of a mosquitoes and ticks surrounded area you must wear full sleeves dresses to lessen the risk of encephalitis.

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