Symptoms Of Encephalitis: Causes And Treatment Guidelines

Encephalitis is the inflammation of the brain. It manifests as flu-like symptoms, such as a fever or severe headache. Severe cases of encephalitis, though comparatively rare, are known to be life-threatening. Thus, it’s very vital to get timely diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Signs and symptoms of encephalitis:

Most people show only mild flu-like symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Exhaustion and malaise

Sever cases of encephalitis are seen as:

  • Hallucination
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Loss of sensation in the body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Double vision
  • Slurring speech
  • Difficulty in hearing
  • Loss of consciousness

In babies and children, the common symptoms include:

  • Bulging in the soft spots of the skull
  • Extreme irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Stiffness of the body
  • Refusing feed

What Are The Causes Of Encephalitis?

The precise cause of encephalitis is not known, however, the most common cause is viral infection.

Bacterial infection and non-infectious inflammatory conditions also trigger encephalitis.

  • Primary encephalitis occurs when the infectious agent directly infects the brain. The infection may be localized or widespread.
  • Secondary encephalitis is a defective immune mechanism response to an infection somewhere else in the body. Instead of only assaulting the cells that have caused the infection, the immune system erroneously attacks healthy cells in the brain. Secondary encephalitis develops 3 weeks after the initial infection.

Common viral causes

  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Varicella-zoster virus, which commonly causes chickenpox and shingles.
  • Entero-viruses
  • Mosquito-borne viruses
  • Tick-borne viruses
  • Rabies virus
  • Common childhood infections such as measles, mumps and rubella are known to cause secondary encephalitis.

Treatment Guidelines For Encephalitis

Treatment for mild cases consists of:

  • Bed rest
  • Drinking lot of fluids
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to help allay headache and fever.

Encephalitis due to viruses is normally managed with IV antiviral treatments. Antiviral drugs that are commonly used to treat encephalitis are:

  • Acyclovir
  • Foscarnet

Some viruses do not respond at all to these treatment regimens. On the other hand, since it may not be possible to identify the specific virus immediately or at all, treatment with acyclovir is by and large started right away.

Additional supportive care also is very essential for those in the hospital having severe encephalitis. This comprises of:

  • Breathing assistance and vigilant monitoring of breathing as well as the heart function.
  • IV fluids to make sure that the individual is properly hydrated and is receiving correct levels of the vital minerals.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to assuage the swelling and pressure within the skull; corticosteroids are prescribed too.
  • Anticonvulsant medications to help deal with or prevent convulsions and seizures.

Follow-up therapy

After recovery, it is very important that you receive additional therapy depending upon the type and intensity of the infection as well as complications. This therapy includes:

  • Physical therapy: To help enhance mobility, strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and motor coordination.
  • Occupational therapy: To develop day to day skills and to use adaptive products that help with daily activities.
  • Speech therapy: To improve speech.
  • Psychotherapy: To handle mood disorders better and / or to address personality changes.