What is encephalitis?
Many people research neurological symptoms on the internet, and one condition that can arise is brain inflammation or encephalitis. This is a serious, but fortunately rare, condition with symptoms that include headache, fever, confusion, speech trouble, seizures or loss of consciousness.
Viruses are common causes, and some of these include herpes virus and enterovirus, however not everyone with these viruses will develop neurological symptoms. Identifying the exact virus causing encephalitis can be difficult but may help with treatment. One type of encephalitis doctors no longer see, thanks to vaccination, is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, or SSPE, an incurable and often fatal disease caused by measles virus.
Another, much rarer, cause of encephalitis is an autoimmune process, or inappropriately overactive immune system. This process could be triggered by an infection, a remote effect from cancer (known as a paraneoplastic syndrome) or idiopathic - that is, due to unknown cause.
These conditions can be difficult to diagnose, and the treatment often requires medications that suppress or modulate the immune system such as steroids.
Encephalitis can be life threatening, and some patients face prolonged admission with the prospect of an uncertain recovery. It's vital to ensure good support for patients and their loved ones, from rehabilitation to community engagement and recovery, alongside future research that may improve the lives of these patients.