Encephalitis is inflammation of your brain, usually caused by an infection.
Encephalitis can be caused by a virus directly infecting your brain or when a virus or a misguided immune reaction triggers brain inflammation
Typical symptoms include a fever, headache, and feeling sleepy or confused
Doctors do an MRI and spinal tap
Doctors treat your symptoms and sometimes give antiviral medicines or corticosteroids
The most common cause of encephalitis is a
Many different viruses can cause encephalitis. Some of these include:
Some of these viruses come from bug bites, such as from mosquitoes or ticks. Rabies comes from animal bites.
Sometimes a virus mistakenly causes your immune system to attack tissue in your brain (autoimmune reaction Autoimmune Diseases "Auto" is a medical term for "self." The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually attacks invading bacteria, viruses... read more ). As a result, your brain becomes inflamed. This usually happens a few weeks after you get certain kinds of viral infections.
Early symptoms depend on what caused the encephalitis. Many viruses first cause stomach and cold (flu-like) symptoms. You may feel sick to your stomach and throw up. You may have a sore throat, runny nose, and cough.
When your brain becomes inflamed, you usually have:
With severe encephalitis, you may have seizures Seizure Disorders Seizures are changes in the brain's electrical signals. A seizure disorder is a problem that causes a person to have seizures. The brain is made up of nerve cells. Nerve cells talk to each other... read more or go into a coma. Some people die.
Doctors suspect encephalitis based on your symptoms. Doctors then usually do a:
Spinal tap Spinal Tap Spinal fluid is a liquid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. Spinal fluid helps cushion your brain if you hit your head or fall. Spinal fluid moves freely around your brain and spinal... read more (use a long needle to get spinal fluid from your lower back)
Rarely, doctors need to remove a sample (biopsy) of brain tissue and do tests on it to find the cause of the encephalitis.
For some kinds of viral encephalitis, doctors give you antiviral medicines. They may give you corticosteroids if encephalitis is caused by an autoimmune reaction.
Some causes of encephalitis have no specific treatment. Doctors treat symptoms and offer life support (such as a breathing tube) until the infection goes away. This usually takes about 1 to 2 weeks.