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Encephalitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About encephalitis

Encephalitis is defined as the inflammation of the brain tissue resulting in its swelling and thereby damage. It usually results from a viral infection but other factors may also be responsible. It is characterised by fever, seizures and headache.

Encephalitis: Incidence, age and sex

Encephalitis is a rare problem involving the brain which is encountered in the general population. It may be seen in any age group, although infants and elderly are more susceptible.

Signs and symptoms of encephalitis: Diagnosis

The clinical features of encephalitis are vague and may vary from gastro-intestinal features like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea to respiratory features like cold, cough and breathlessness. These symptoms are seen in the initial stages of the viral infection which may progress to serious symptoms like headache, fever, behavioural disturbances, weakness of the limbs, slurring of speech, loss of memory, blurring of vision, and uncoordinated gait. This condition may deteriorate and present with drowsiness, seizures, paralysis of limb muscles or even unconsciousness.

It is advisable to consult a neurologist without delay who will conduct a comprehensive neurological examination to assess the extent of damage to the brain tissue. Other investigations like CT scan, MRI scan and examination of cerebrospinal fluid will help in establishing the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of encephalitis

The most common cause of encephalitis is a viral infection wherein Arbovirus, Echovirus and Poliovirus are most frequently implicated. Most of the viral infections can spread from person to person via respiratory droplets. Alternatively, the viral infection can also be spread through mosquitoes. Some parasites or bacteria may also be responsible for encephalitis. Occasionally it can also result from allergic reaction to vaccines.

Encephalitis: Complications

Sometimes encephalitis can lead to irreversible damage to the brain tissue resulting in impairment of vital functions like hearing, vision, language, memory loss or even personality changes.

Encephalitis: Treatment

It is recommended to consult a neurologist to discuss the effective management of encephalitis. The main goal of treatment is to provide symptomatic relief and supportive care until the infection subsides. It is essential to provide complete rest and maintain good nutrition of the affected individual. Medications like anti-virals or anti-parasitics or antibiotics may be prescribed according to the causative organism. The prognosis of encephalitis varies from person to person. It usually results in complete recovery in most of the individuals if diagnosed and managed timely. However, some individuals may also exhibit some irreversible disability and fail to recover fully.