From Japanese encephalitis to autoimmune encephalitis, here's a brief look at some of the reasons why the brain gets inflamed
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissues. This inflammation can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungi or protozoa.
Inflammation of the brain or encephalitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungi or protozoa
Encephalitis can also be caused by viruses that cause measles, polio and rabies
Autoimmune encephalitis occurs when our immune system fails to recognise our brain cells and attacks them, causing inflammation
An Indian-origin girl in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis, news agencies reported over the weekend. This rare condition occurs when our immune system fails to recognise our brain cells and attacks them, causing inflammation. The 20-year-old has been on a ventilator for the last six months, agencies added.
Encephalitis was also in the news earlier this year when more than 160 children died from Japanese encephalitis after eating contaminated litchi fruits in Muzaffarpur, Bihar.
There are many reasons why the brain gets inflamed. Here’s a look at why this happens and the symptoms.
What is encephalitis
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissues. It is usually caused by an infection - usually, the infection-causing agent is a virus, but it could be another pathogen also.
Symptoms of encephalitis
In the initial stages, patients with encephalitis may experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue. In some cases, patients don’t experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease.
Once the infection spreads to a significant part of the brain, they may develop symptoms such as confusion, seizures and loss of consciousness.
Encephalitis is often misdiagnosed because of its flu-like symptoms. For encephalitis patients, timely diagnosis and prompt treatment are key. This is because the course of the disease varies from individual to individual - and it can be quite unpredictable.
Types of encephalitis
Inflammation of the brain or encephalitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria, fungi or protozoa. Broadly, if a person develops encephalitis due to an infection in the brain - it is called primary encephalitis. If the inflammation occurs as a result of an infection in another part of the body, it is known as secondary encephalitis - this can occur when the immune system (mistakenly) thinks that the infection originated in the brain and attacks brain tissue to fight it off.
Whether the inflammation is primary or secondary in nature, the causative organism determines the name of the “type of encephalitis”. For example, there are many types of viral encephalitis such as:
- Japanese encephalitis
- Herpes simplex encephalitis
- St Louis encephalitis
- West Nile encephalitis
- Varicella-zoster encephalitis
- Equine encephalitis
Causes and treatment of encephalitis
Encephalitis can also be caused by viruses that cause measles, polio and rabies. Encephalitis-causing virus or bacteria can be transmitted to people by vectors like mosquitoes, horses, birds or ticks.
More often than not, encephalitis is acute in nature - meaning, the appearance of symptoms is sudden and intense.
This variant of encephalitis presents with symptoms related to nerve damage such as seizures, impaired memory, confusion, loss of consciousness and eventually coma.
Doctors usually suppress the immune system by injecting immunosuppressive drugs to treat encephalitis. Sometimes, autoimmune encephalitis is connected to cancer. In such a scenario, finding and removing the tumour is the main treatment.
The key is to achieve normal brain function with early treatment. Otherwise. the patient's brain function worsens day by day, and might even cost them their life.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Encephalitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment.
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Toll due to encephalitis in Bihar rises to 100; 83 children of total died at one hospital in Muzaffarpur
At least 100 children have lost their lives due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur, officials said on Monday.
Encephalitis in Bihar: 5 more children die due to brain fever outbreak at Muzaffarpur's SKMCH, 68 kids in ICU, confirms senior official
The SKMCH has reported 93 casualties so far due to AES and only 118 children have been discharged after treatment. The rest are undergoing treatment.
Encephalitis deaths in Bihar: Lack of trained doctors, drinking water woes pose challenges in preventing spread of virus
Cases of encephalitis have been reported throughout the year from Siwan, Gopalganj, East Champaran, Barauni and Gaya districts.