What is Encephalitis?

Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain, caused mainly due to viral infection. It usually begins with symptoms like fever, severe headache, seizures, confused thinking and problems with movement or senses. It leads to changes in the person’s mental condition, which includes hallucination and seizures.

What are the causes and variants causes of Encephalitis?

The exact cause of Encephalitis is unknown, but most commonly it is considered as a viral infection. The known causes of Encephalitis include:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Parasites

There are many different types of Encephalitis which have different causes. The most common are:

  • Infectious: if the inflammation occurs due to an infection, it is referred as viral. It usually occurs when the virus or other infection directly infects the brain
  • Post-infectious: At times the immune system reacts to the previous infection, causing inflammation, which generally can occur days, weeks or even months after the initial infection has occurred
  • Autoimmune: It can be described as an inflammation which is caused due to the reaction of the immune system to the non-infectious cause, like tumour
  • There are many prevailing types of Encephalitis which are spread by mosquitoes- known as Japanese Encephalitis. Encephalitis can also be caused by rabies
What are the signs and symptoms of Encephalitis?

Most of the people with viral Encephalitis have mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. The most common symptoms include

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Aches in joints or muscles
  • Weakness or fatigue

The symptoms that require medical care are as follows:

  • Severe headache
  • High Fever
  • Change in personality
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Loss of sensation or paralysis in certain areas of the body
  • Hallucinations
  • Double vision
  • Problems with hearing and speaking
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Perception of foul smells
Which factors increase the risk of developing Encephalitis?

Age: Encephalitis is more prevalent and severe in certain age groups. Generally, younger children and older adults are at a higher risk of most types of Viral Encephalitis. However it tends to be common also among the people from 20- 40 years of age.

Weak immune system: People who have a compromised or a weak immune system are at a higher risk of developing Encephalitis.

Outdoor activities: Any outdoor activity that results in exposure to mosquitoes or ticks increases the risk of developing Encephalitis.

Which consultant should be consulted if a person is suffering from Encephalitis?

For Encephalitis, one should consult a General Physician or a Neurologist.

Is Encephalitis Curable?

It can be controlled but is not curable; but its cure usually depends on the cause and its severity. People usually recover from viral Encephalitis but the infection is very severe and can lead to permanent brain damage.

What are the complications involved if Encephalitis is not treated?

The complications depend on many factors which include the age, the exact cause of the infection, the severity of the illness and the time from the disease developed to the treatment. Usually the people suffering from mild illness recover within a few weeks with no long term complications. But in some cases, severe illness develops many complications like:

  • Coma
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Death

Some complications vary in severity of the disease and persist for many months or are permanent. The complications include:

  • Weakness
  • Mood disorders
  • Memory problems
  • Vision defect
  • Partial or full Paralysis
  • Lack of muscle co-ordination
  • Change in personality
  • Hearing defect
How can Encephalitis be prevented?

The best way to prevent Encephalitis is to take necessary precautions to avoid exposure to any kind of viruses that can develop the disease:

Good Hygiene: Hands should be frequently washed with soap and water, especially after using restrooms and before and after meals. Good hygiene always protects us from contracting any kind of diseases.

Do not share utensils: Utensils, tableware and beverages should not be shared.

Vaccinations: All the vaccinations should be regularly taken to avoid any kind of diseases or viruses that can lead to Encephalitis.

Protect Yourself: One should wear long sleeve shirts and long pants if outside during the evening and night to protect from mosquitoes and ticks which are highly responsible for spreading the virus.

Apply mosquito repellent: Mosquito repellent cream should be applied to the skin to protect from the mosquitoes and ticks.

Avoid mosquitoes: Activities done in the places where mosquitoes are more active should be avoided.

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