Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. Most commonly, it is caused by a virus – this is known as primary or infectious encephalitis. Symptoms of encephalitis include mild-flu like symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. More severe symptoms may include hallucinations, seizures, problems with speech/hearing, and loss of consciousness.
Encephalitis can be caused by common childhood infections such as measles, mumps, and rubella. It can also be caused by viruses including herpes simplex virus (HSV), Epstein-Barr virus, varicella-zoster virus, mosquito- and tick-borne viruses and rabies virus. Although rare, some bacteria, fungi (microorganisms such as yeasts or molds), and parasites may cause infectious encephalitis as well. Infectious encephalitis can be prevented by getting routine vaccinations, practicing good hygiene, and protecting against ticks and mosquitos.
Autoimmune encephalitis (AE) is a newly discovered form of encephalitis. Sometimes, the cause is unknown, and other times, AE is in response to a cancerous tumor. Symptoms of AE include worsening memory, sudden unplanned movements, seizures, hallucinations, paranoid thoughts, and a difficult time falling asleep.
Encephalitis is often diagnosed through brain imaging techniques including MRI, CT, and EEG, to see brain inflammation/swelling and patterns of brain activity. Encephalitis treatment varies depending on the cause. For viral infectious encephalitis, antiviral medications (to treat the virus causing the disease) are typically used. For AE caused by a tumor, physicians may first aim to directly treat the tumor; however, a second-line of treatment includs drugs that prevent the immune system’s response are available if treating the source is unsuccessful.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with encephalitis, speak with your doctor about the most current treatment options.
Description Last Updated: Aug 20, 2018