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Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain, commonly caused by a viral infection. It can be caused by a bacterial infection such as bacterial meningitis, or may be a complication of other infectious diseases like rabies (viral) or syphilis (bacterial). Certain parasitic or protozoal infestations, such as toxoplasmosis, malaria, or primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, can also cause encephalitis in people with compromised immune systems. Brain damage occurs as the inflamed brain pushes against the skull, and can lead to death.
Patients with encephalitis suffer from fever, headache and photophobia with weakness and seizures also common. Less commonly, stiffness of the neck can occur with rare cases of patients also suffering from stiffness of the limbs, slowness in movement and clumsiness depending on which specific part of the brain is involved. The symptoms of encephalitis are caused by the brain's defense mechanisms activating to get rid of the infection. Another symptom of Encephalitis is hallucination.
Encephalitis may be caused by a variety of afflictions. One such affliction is rabies. Encephalitis may also be caused by HIV. The major causes of encephalitis outbreaks all over the world are viruses like Japanese Encephalitis, West Nile, Chandipura,St. Louis Encephalitis, Equine Encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, Murray Valley encephalitis virus, California encephalitis virus, Tick-borne meningoencephalitis, Herpes simplex, Influenza A virus etc.
Adult patients with encephalitis present with acute onset of fever, headache, confusion, and sometimes seizures. Younger children or infants may present with irritability, anorexia and fever.
Neurological examinations usually reveal a drowsy or confused patient. Stiff neck, due to the irritation of the meninges covering the brain, indicates that the patient has either meningitis or meningeoncephalitis. Examination of the cerebrospinal fluid obtained by a lumbar puncture procedure usually reveals increased amounts of protein and white blood cells with normal glucose, though in a significant percentage of patients, the cerebrospinal fluid may be normal. CT scan often is not helpful, as cerebral abscess is uncommon. Cerebral abscess is more common in patients with meningitis than encephalitis. Bleeding is also uncommon except in patients with herpes simplex type 1 encephalitis. Magnetic resonance imaging offers better resolution. In patients with herpes simplex encephalitis, electroencephalograph may show sharp waves in one or both of the temporal lobes. Lumbar puncture procedure is performed only after the possibility of prominent brain swelling is excluded by a CT scan examination. Diagnosis is often made with detection of antibodies in the cerebrospinal fluid against a specific viral agent (such as herpes simplex virus) or by polymerase chain reaction that amplifies the RNA or DNA of the virus responsible (such as varicella zoster virus).
Treatment is usually symptomatic. Reliably tested specific antiviral agents are available only for a few viral agents (e.g. acyclovir for herpes simplex virus) and are used with limited success for most infection except herpes simplex encephalitis. In patients who are very sick, supportive treatment, such as mechanical ventilation, is equally important.
Encephalitis lethargica is an atypical form of encephalitis which caused an epidemic from 1917 to 1928. There have only been a small number of isolated cases since, though in recent years a few patients have shown very similar symptoms. The cause is now thought to be either a bacterial agent or an autoimmune response following infection.
Limbic system encephalitis
In a small number of cases, called limbic encephalitis, the pathogens responsible for encephalitis attack primarily the limbic system (a collection of structures at the base of the brain responsible for basic autonomic functions).
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Encephalitis". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|