Inflammation of the brain leading to confusion and drowsiness.

Causes of Encephalitis

Any infection that irritates the brain can result in encephalitis. The most common cause is a non-specific viral infection although it can accompany mumps and chickenpox. Probably the headache so common with these viral illnesses is a mild form. Certain biochemical disorders can cause encephalitis, for example alcoholic poisoning. Infection with the herpes virus is one potentially treatable cause. There is a rare and incurable form caused by measles, one reason for offering vaccination against this disease. There are several tropical insect-borne diseases which also cause encephalitis.

Symptoms of Encephalitis

It begins as a typical viral illness with widespread muscular aches and headache. After a day or two the sufferer becomes drowsy, the headache worsens and the sufferer may lapse into
a coma. There may be epileptic fits and paralysis of certain facial muscles. The coma can become profound. The diagnosis is confirmed by detecting viruses on a lumbar puncture, showing brain inflammation on a brain scan and, occasionally, taking a biopsy of the brain to detect the herpes virus.

Treatment of Encephalitis

Most cases of encephalitis can be treated only with nursing care and steroids to reduce inflammation within the brain. A brain scan may show some treatable cause such as a brain abscess. If caused by herpes, the treatment is with high doses of antiviral drugs. Although most victims do recover, encephalitis is always a serious condition with a risk of death or of permanent neurological damage.

Complementary Treatment of Encephalitis

Complementary therapies are not an appropriate response to encephalitis. During recovery any of the relaxational techniques could help – see Stress.