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Encephalopathy : Definition, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Saturday, August 11th 2012. | Brain and Nerves, Disease

Encephalopathy Definition

Encephalitis is an inflammatory disease of the brain. The brain is composed of the brain, the cerebellum, a structure located under the brain involved in movement, and brain stem, the part of the nervous system between the brain and spinal cord. This disease is due to an infection that can be caused by a virus, like herpes or rabiesIt may also, in rare cases, be a complication of a viral infection. Encephalitis can also be caused by a bacteria or fungus. In all cases, it requires immediate hospitalization and depending on its severity and its origin, it can cause brain damage.

We must distinguish encephalitis from meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges, the envelopes that protect the brain. Meningitis can also result from bacterial or viral infection. Sometimes we identify mixed forms called meningoencephalitis).


Encephalitis (img thanks to doereport.com)

What are the main types of encephalitis?

  • Herpes encephalitis. This is an infectious disease of viral origin due to the herpes virus.
  • Japanese encephalitis. This is an infectious viral disease, which prevails in South Asia and is transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes.
  • The tick-borne meningoencephalitis (TEM). This is an infectious viral disease rampant in the Vosges mountains the far east of the former USSR, especially in agricultural areas and forest, transmitted by bites of infected ticks.
  • Hashimoto’s encephalitis. This disease is a serious complication of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
  • The post-infectious encephalitis. It is a disease that occurs after a viral infection such as influenza, rubella or chickenpox, or sometimes after vaccination.

Encephalopathy Patient Feels

The person with encephalitis feel first symptoms resemble the flu with fever and headache. By these signs, in addition neurological signs such as decreased alertness, confusion or drowsiness. Sometimes, encephalitis can cause an attack of convulsions (seizures) or coma. In tick-borne meningoencephalitis (TEM), the person present in addition to sensory and visual disturbances and signs of paralysis in the arms. In addition to general signs of inflammation of the brain, herpes encephalitis manifested by aphasia: the person has difficulty to understand and articulate the words. Hashimoto’s encephalitis is characterized it, by great mental confusion.

Encephalopathy Diagnosis

The appearance of signs that are suggestive of inflammation of the brain must be followed by a treatment in an emergency. Several tests are performed to confirm the diagnosis with and deliver appropriate treatment more quickly. A brain scan can visualize changes caused by encephalitis but also to rule out other causes of neurological symptoms as a stroke (CVA), an aneurysm or tumor.

An electroencephalogram (EEG) that records the electrical activity of the brain of a person with encephalitis may present abnormal tracings. Finally lumbar puncture, which involves removing the cerebrospinal fluid, may detect an abnormal amount of white blood cells, signs of infection.

Sometimes the doctor orders a blood test in order to detect the person of a virus, including West Nile virus.

Encephalopathy Treatment

If the person is in a coma, the first step consists of resuscitation in intensive care. As the brain is herpes most common cause of encephalitis. Initial treatment is an antiviral drug (acyclovir) against the herpes virus. For other causes of encephalitis, there is no specific drugs: treatment based on the management of symptoms including drugs that aim to reduce fever. If the person is agitated or made attacks epilepsy treatments sedatives or anticonvulsants are given. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and other drugs against cerebral edema (increased fluid caused by inflammation).

Encephalopathy Risk

The viral, bacterial or fungal infection itself can damage brain areas: the nerve cells are destroyed and can not be replaced. The same process of destruction may result from edema associated with inflammation. During inflammation, fluid can accumulate in the skull which puts great pressure on the brain. These lesions result from the disease, are termed “acquired brain injury” and may be the cause of suffering more or less important: for a reduced speed of thought and memory problems and concentration up to physical problems such as loss of sensation or weakness. Moreover, the ABI can become the starting point of seizures.

Encephalopathy specialty concern

Infectious and Tropical Diseases

Exercised most often in the hospital, and that specialty studies supports the diseases caused by microbes: bacteria (tuberculosis, skin infections), virus (AIDS, hepatitis), mushrooms (fungi), parasites (malaria). Most of these diseases exist in France, but they are still present in the tropics.

Today, with increased travel and because of climate change, tropical diseases are increasingly common in hospitals.


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