Dr Ira Shah
Editor - Pediatric Oncall
What is encephalitis?
Infection of the brain is called encephalitis.
Any other cause of brain irritation is called as encephalopathy and can be seen with diseases such as hypertension (high BP), kidney failure (uremic encephalopathy), jaundice (hepatic encephalopathy), poisoning and heavy mental intoxication.
What are the common causes of encephalitis?
Viruses are common organisms causing encephalitis. Common viruses causing encephalitis are herpes virus, mump virus, measles virus, arboviruses, enteroviruses, influenza virus and dengue. Non viral causes of encephalitis are other organisms such as rickettsia, TB, fungal and certain parasites.
What are the symptoms of encephalitis?
The common symptoms are high fever, headache, vomiting, fits and coma. These symptoms are variable in onset and severity. Patients may recover on their own or may quickly progress to deepening coma.
How is the diagnosis of encephalitis made?
Diagnosis of encephalitis is made by detecting cells in the cerebrospinal fluid. (Cerebrospinal fluid is the fluid present in the brain cavity). This cerebrospinal fluid also helps to detect the organisms causing the infection. MRI brain helps to determine which area of the brain is involved and look for complications such as brain abscess and hydrocephalus (increase in size of brain cavity due to increase pressure in the cerebrospinal fluid). EEG can help to determine Herpes virus infection.
What are the complications of encephalitis?
Rapidly progressive encephalitis can lead to more brain damage and death. Patients may develop stroke, paralysis, vision and hearing problems, mental retardation and epilepsy. Patients may become handicapped and even bed ridden.
What is the treatment of encephalitis?
Treatment is largely supportive and includes measures to prevent increase in brain pressure. Specific antiviral drugs, anti TB drugs may be required based on the organism suspected.
Last updated on 1-07-2010