Encephalitis is an inflammatory disease that specifically affects membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The disorder is usually the result of a viral or bacteriological infection in the body but can also be the result an allergic reaction or certain cancers. Some common forms of encephalitis’s are Meningitis and West Nile Virus. The symptoms can often be confused with the flu but can also be much more serious. There are different treatment regiments for patients suffering from encephalitis but the prognosis can vary greatly between patients and on the severity of case.
Sufferers of encephalitis may not even realize that they are suffering from the disease as a mild case mimics many of the symptoms of other ailments such as a cold, the flu, or stomach infection. These mild and common symptoms may include: headache, fever, loss of appetite and energy. Other possible symptoms may include: confusion, drowsiness, sensitivity to light, dizziness, muscle stiffness, vomiting, and irritability. Some mild cases could be over in as little a 3-5 days but other cases could last quite a bit longer.
Severe cases of encephalitis may have a different list of symptoms that would warrant a trip to the emergency room. These symptoms could include: coma or loss of consciousness, seizures, paralysis or muscle weakness, severe headache, impaired judgment, mood changes or lack of mood, problems making decisions, and amnesia. It is rare for those who are not young or over the age of 55 to have a severe case of encephalitis.
There is not a simple cure for encephalitis but the inflammation, underlying infection, and other symptoms can be treated. Antiviral medication or antibiotics can be prescribed to fight off the viral or bacterial infection. The inflammation and swelling can be treated with steroids. Patients with seizures can be given anti-seizure medications. Sometimes patients may be sedated to treat irritability. The common symptoms (headache, fever, and muscle aches) can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
Prognosis for patients
The outlook for patients with encephalitis depends on the seriousness of the case. The prognosis can vary greatly depending on several factors concerning the patient. Age, existing conditions, status of the immune system, and the underlying cause can also affect the prognosis. Those with a mild case should recover in a few weeks with no problems. Some severe cases however can result in death in as little as 48 hours. Such a quick death is usually the result of pressure on the brain stem that causes loss of vital functions in the body, necessary for keeping a person alive. It is therefore very important to seek medical help when severe symptoms occur.
Patients that survive a severe case could also suffer from other complications which can include permanent brain damage due to the prolonged swelling. The damage could affect the senses (hearing, speech, vision, and sensation) as well as muscle control, memory, and even personality changes. These additional complications could take months for a patient to recover from.