Encephalitis is the condition that results in brain inflammation. Your brain can suffer from the problem causing flu-like signs. In most cases, the virus is the culprit behind the problem. So, the problem can cause headache and fever. In some cases, the affected individual can suffer from severe signs like seizures, confused thinking or experience problems with movement or senses. It is essential to see a doctor and get help. With proper care, you can alleviate the problem without any complications. It is difficult to predict how the problem can affect a person. So, with timely medical intervention, you can prevent the adverse reaction associated with the disease.
Symptoms Associated With Encephalitis
Table of Contents
The symptoms you experience due to the brain inflammation depends on the severity of the issue. It also depends varies in children. So, read ahead to know the different signs exhibited by people.
Mild Symptoms Of Encephalitis
Viral encephalitis can trigger mild symptoms. It is similar to flu symptoms. So, you can observe the following:
- Aches in joints or muscles
Severe Symptoms Associated With Encephalitis
In some cases, an affected individual can observe more severe signs. It can include the following:
- Paralysis or loss of sensation in certain areas of body or face
- Loss of consciousness
- Muscle weakness
- Problems with hearing or speech
Signs In Young Children Due To Encephalitis
The brain inflammation can affect infants and young children. In such cases, you can observe the following signs or symptoms:
- Bulging fontanelle (the soft spots on an infant’s skull)
- Body stiffness
- Poor feeding or not awake for a feeding
When you observe severe symptoms or the problems in a young child, you need to seek medical help immediately. Loss of consciousness or severe headache needs emergency medical care. With proper medical assistance, you can prevent any adverse complications. Therefore, do not ignore the problem and get your doctor’s assistance.
Causes Of Encephalitis
The exact cause of brain infection remains unclear. But, the viral infection is the most common cause associated with the disease. It can also occur due to bacterial infection as well as noninfectious inflammatory conditions.
Types Of Encephalitis
Depending on the cause of the brain inflammation, you can classify the problem into two types. The two major types are:
It is the condition affecting your brain when a virus or other agents directly cause infection. The infection can affect one area specifically or can spread to other areas. The primary infection can occur due to the reactivation of the virus that has remained dormant after a previous illness.
It is the brain inflammation that results from a problematic immune system reaction to any of the infection occurring in any parts of your body. Instead of attacking the abnormal cells, triggering infection, the immune system attacks your healthy brain cells. The problem is also known as post-infection encephalitis. It occurs mainly after two to three weeks after suffering from the initial infection.
Common Viral Causes Triggering Encephalitis
Certain viruses can trigger brain inflammation. The common viral issues triggering encephalitis include the following:
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
HSV type 1 and 2 virus can cause encephalitis. The HSV type 1 can trigger fever blisters and cold sores around your mouth while HSV type 2 leads to genital herpes. HSV type 1 triggered brain inflammation occurs rarely. But, it can result in significant brain damage or ultimately death.
Other Herpes Virus
You can also suffer from brain inflammation due to other herpes viruses, such as Epstein-Barr virus. It mostly causes infectious mononucleosis. The varicella-zoster virus causing shingles and chicken pox can also affect your brain.
The viruses, including coxsackievirus and poliovirus, which causes symptoms like eye inflammation, abdominal pain or flu-like signs can also cause encephalitis.
- West Nile
- Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis
- La Crosse
You can suffer from encephalitis due to getting a bite from the Powassan virus-infected ticks. It is the common cause of brain inflammation in the Midwestern United States. You can observe the signs one week after getting a bite from the infected tick.
You can suffer from brain inflammation when you get an infection due to the rabies virus. The rabies virus is usually transmitted when you get bitten by an infected animal. Once you observe the symptoms, it can progress rapidly to brain inflammation.
The common childhood infections can trigger secondary encephalitis. So, the following infections can put you at risk of suffering from the problem:
- German measles (Rubella)
- Measles (Rubeola)
Getting necessary vaccination during infancy can prevent the problem.
Risk Factors Associated With Encephalitis
Anyone can develop brain inflammation. But, the following factors can increase the risk of the problem. So,
Age can play an important factor in suffering from brain inflammation. It is more common among certain age groups. Young children and people in their advanced ages experience a greater risk of suffering from viral encephalitis.
Weakened Immune System
A weak immune system can put you at risk of suffering from infections that can trigger brain inflammation. So, people suffering from diseases causing a weakened immune system, HIV/AIDS, or take immune-suppressing drugs can suffer from the problem more compared to others.
Encephalitis due to a mosquito bite or tick-borne viruses are common in certain geographical regions. Therefore, people staying in specific regions need to maintain caution.
Season Of The Year
The mosquito or tick-borne viruses are more common during the specific season of a year. For example, in the USA, you can experience such problems in the summer.
Complications Due To Encephalitis
You can suffer from severe problems due to not managing brain inflammation properly. The complications you suffer depends on the following factors:
- Age of the affected person
- Cause of the infection
- The severity of the initial illness
- The time you take to get treatment for the disease
In most cases, people with mild brain inflammation can recover within a few weeks. Mild cases do not cause any long-term complications. But, severe cases can result in major problems.
Complication Due To Severe Encephalitis
A severe case of brain inflammation can cause injury to your brain. So, it can put the affected person in a coma or lead to death. You can also suffer other complications like:
- Personality changes
- Persistent fatigue
- Feeling weak
- Lack of muscle coordination
- Memory problems
- Speech impairment
- Hearing or vision defects
Therefore, it is essential to get medical help as soon as possible. With timely intervention, you can avoid any long-term complication due to brain inflammation.
When you experience any of the signs associated with encephalitis, see a doctor. Your doctor can perform several tests to diagnose the problem conclusively. After a thorough physical examination and understanding your medical history, your doctor can perform the following diagnostic tests to detect brain inflammation:
The sophisticated brain imaging techniques like MRI or CT scans can reveal the presence of brain swelling or other conditions. It can also reveal issues like tumors that can trigger such symptoms.
Spinal Tap/ Lumbar Puncture
It is the test that detects any problem with your brain by analyzing CSF (Cerebro-spinal fluid). CSF is the protective fluid surrounding your brain as well as the spinal column. The CSF is removed using a needle from your lower back. The fluid is tested to detect changes in the fluid. So, it can detect infection and inflammation. The sample of CSF can also detect the virus and other infectious agents.
Other Lab Tests
Your doctor takes the sample of urine, blood or excretion from the back of your throat to detect the presence of the virus as well as infectious agents.
EEG can detect the brain’s electrical activity. The doctor fixes electrodes on your scalp. The diagnostic test can identify the abnormal pattern of the brain due to encephalitis.
When the treatment options fail to provide you relief, your doctor can suggest brain biopsy. During the test, a small sample of tissue gets tested. It is removed by your doctor and sent to the lab to find the exact problem.
Treatment For Encephalitis
The treatment for brain inflammation depends on the severity of the problem. It also depends on your age as well as the form and cause of the condition. The treatment options available are:
Treatment For Mild Encephalitis
For mild cases of encephalitis, your doctor can recommend the following options:
- Take complete bed rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve headaches and fever
Other Treatment Options
You can suffer from brain inflammation due to certain viruses. So, you need treatment to address the problem. It can include the following:
Take Antiviral Drugs
The treatment focuses on alleviating the symptoms triggered due to brain inflammation. So, your doctor can suggest taking antiviral drugs. Only a few antiviral agents have tested to offer an effective cure. Acyclovir is the common antiviral agent, which offers limited relief except for the ones caused by the herpes virus. Your doctor can also suggest taking Ganciclovir or Foscarnet to treat the problem.
Unfortunately, the insect-borne virus does not respond positively to the treatment mentioned above. But, your doctor starts treatment with Acyclovir when the specific virus causing the problem remains unknown. It is highly effective against Herpes Simplex Virus and reduces the complications associated with it. In most cases, patients can tolerate antiviral medications. Only in rare cases, it can cause side effects like kidney damage.
Severe cases of encephalitis require immediate hospitalization. You need medical care and treatment to manage the condition. So, you need the following to deal with the severe brain inflammation:
- People suffering from a severe case of brain inflammation need breathing assistance. They also need careful monitoring of breathing as well as heart function.
- You need intravenous fluid to ensure proper hydration. It also provides you with essential minerals.
- To reduce the swelling and pressure within your skull, you need anti-inflammatory drugs. Your doctor can suggest taking corticosteroids to reduce the discomfort associated with the problem.
- Some people can suffer seizures due to encephalitis. Therefore, your doctor can prescribe anticonvulsant medications like phenytoin. It prevents seizures.
Severe cases of brain inflammation can cause changes in your body functions and personality. So, you need additional therapies to address the complications. The following therapies can address the issues caused by brain inflammation:
- Physical Therapy
You can lose strength in any part of your body due to severe brain inflammation. So, you need physical therapy to improve your strength and flexibility. The exercises can offer you better mobility, motor coordination, and balance.
- Occupational Therapy
Some people can encounter a problem with their everyday skills. So, such people need occupational therapy. It helps them develop everyday skills. Occupational therapy can also aid in using adaptive products to deal with everyday activities.
- Speech Therapy
Brain inflammation can result in loss of muscle control and coordination to produce speech. So, you need speech therapy to relearn muscle control and coordination. So, you can get back your verbal communication.
It helps you learn much-needed coping strategies. You can also learn new behavioral skills to address personality changes and improve your mood disorders.
By addressing the problem early, you can limit the complications associated with it. Medical help can alleviate the discomfort associated with the issue and prevent any lasting complications. Therefore, get treatment as early as possible for encephalitis.
To prevent brain inflammation, you need to prevent viral infections. So, you need to take ample precautions to avoid exposure to the different viruses triggering the problem. The following steps can help you prevent viral infections:
You need to practice good hygiene. You need to wash your hand thoroughly with soap and water. It is important to wash your hands after using the toilet. Cleaning your hands before and after having food can also reduce your risk of infections.
Never Share Utensils
Sharing utensils can put your risk of getting the infection. You must never share beverages or tableware that can put you at risk of viral infection.
You need to teach your children good habits to avoid such infections. It is important to practice good hygiene and avoid sharing utensils at school or at home.
You need to get the essential vaccination for you and your kids. Keeping the vaccinations current will prevent any complications. If you plan to travel to another country, you need to talk to your doctor about the recommended vaccinations. The vaccination for the specific destinations will protect you from viral attacks.
Protection Against Mosquito Bites And Ticks
You need to minimize your exposure to mosquitoes and ticks. It is possible by following the steps suggested below:
You need to dress to protect yourself from the mosquito or tick bites. So, wear a long-sleeved dress, shirts or pants while outside. The mosquitoes are active during dawn and dusk. When you go out during the time, dress appropriately. It is also necessary to cover your body when you walk through the wooded area with thick shrubs or tall grasses.
Apply Mosquito Repellent
You can apply chemicals like DEET that can repel the mosquitoes and ticks. So, apply it to your skin and clothes. You can spray it on your hands and wipe on your face to avoid mosquito bites on your face. Avoid going to places that will put you at risk of mosquito bites. While going out, apply sunscreen first and then mosquito repellent to avoid sun rash as well as mosquito bites.
You can use the approved insecticide that can repel and kill ticks as well as mosquitoes. Use an effective product to prevent the insect bites and subsequent infection while you stay outdoors. You can spray it on your outdoor gear like tent or clothing to prevent encephalitis.
Check Your Surroundings
You need to get rid of the water sources that can act as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. So, eliminate the standing water outside your home or yard. Drain water from the gardening containers or flower pots, old tires, flat roofs, and clogged gutters. It will prevent the mosquitoes from laying their eggs on such sources.
Protecting Young Children From Mosquito Bites
You cannot use insect repellents on infants younger than two months of age. Therefore, you need to protect the child by covering the stroller or infant carrier with mosquito netting. For infants above two months of age, you can use repellents (10%-30% DEET). The products within the specific DEET range offers protection without causing any problems. But, you must not use products containing DEET as well as children as it requires reapplication. It can expose the child to too much DEET. It can cause adverse complications. Therefore, you can follow the tips suggested below to use mosquito repellent without any danger:
- Adult supervision is required while using mosquito repellent on children. So, always assist them while using the product.
- Spray the product on exposed skin and clothing to provide ample protection.
- Do not spray the mosquito repellent in confined spaces. Apply it outdoors to avoid the risk of inhaling the product.
- To protect the face from a mosquito bite, apply the product after spraying it on your hands. Never spray the product directly on the child’s face. Always take care of eyes and ears while applying the product.
- Never apply insect repellent on the hands of young children. It is due to the fact that they can put their hands in their mouths.
- Wash the area sprayed with mosquito repellent with soap and water while you come indoors.
The prognosis of encephalitis depends on the age of the patients. Young and older patients need immediate medical attention to manage the problem. With proper medical assistance, you can make a full recovery without any adverse effects. If you ignore the problem, then it can become severe and result in brain damage or fatal problems.View Article Sources