Encephalitis is swelling of the brain which is a condition caused due to viral infection. Severe cases of encephalitis, while relatively unusual, can be critical. As unpredictable as it can get, even a single case of encephalitis has to be diagnosed at the right time and treated.
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. It is caused either by an infection invading the brain (infectious encephalitis) or through the immune system attacking the brain in error (post-infectious or autoimmune encephalitis).
Most patients with viral encephalitis commence with either no symptoms or light flu-like signs, such as the following:
What are the signs and symptoms of encephalitis in infants & children?
The signs and symptoms of encephalitis are similar for everyone. They experience flu-like signs and symptoms, which may progressively worsen and continue for a period of time. These are:
DIAGNOSIS OF ENCEPHALITIS
Symptoms alone often do not allow sufficient ability to distinguish between the many diseases that can mimic encephalitis. Therefore, doctors perform a variety of hospital tests such as spinal tap (lumbar puncture), brain scans (computerised tomography -CT or magnetic resonance imaging - MRI), electroencephalogram (EEG) and various blood tests. Sometimes, some of the tests cannot be taken immediately because of the patient’s medical state (e.g. patient is agitated). Nevertheless, it is important that investigations are carried out as soon as possible as prompt diagnosis reduces mortality and improves the outcomes.
Brain Imaging: It is often the first test if symptoms suggest the possibility of encephalitis. The images may disclose swelling of the brain or any other condition that may be the root cause of the symptoms, such as a tumor. Technologies may include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which can produce detailed cross-sectional and 3-D images of the brain, or Computerized Tomography (CT) scan .
Spinal tap (lumbar puncture):A needle inserted into your lower back removes cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the protective fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal column. Changes in this fluid can indicate infection and inflammation in the brain. Sometimes samples of CSF can be tested to identify the virus or other infectious agent..
Other lab tests: Samples of blood, urine or excretions from the back of the throat can be tested for viruses or other infectious agents.
Electroencephalogram (EEG): Electrodes affixed to your scalp record the brain's electrical activity. Certain abnormal patterns may indicate a diagnosis of encephalitis.
Brain biopsy: Rarely, a small sample of brain tissue might be removed for testing. Brain biopsy is usually done only if symptoms are worsening and treatments are having no effect.
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