Medical term for the inflammation or swelling of the brain is encephalitis. This problem is very rare in general and there are very few viruses which can cross blood brain barrier and enter the brain, causing problems and disease.
How Encephalitis Looks Like?
Symptoms may be mild to severe and doctors are able to differentiate some initial and progressing signs of this disease. At first, patients usually experience headache and feel sick, while their body temperature is much higher than normal (they have fever). Headaches soon become much worse and patients complain about nausea, vomiting and stiff neck. They might become extremely sensitive to bright lights and can’t walk or use their hands properly due to the disease.
Besides these, symptoms could include problems with memory, drowsiness, confusion or some speech difficulties. People suffering from encephalitis frequently experience seizures and different changes in personality and their normal behavior. Severe infection of the brain may even cause unconsciousness and coma.
Causes of Encephalitis
This condition is usually caused by some viral infection with herpes simplex virus, rubella virus, varicella virus or the measles virus. It can also be the consequence of mumps, glandular fever caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, or infection with echovirus, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), cytomegalovirus (CMV) or Coxsackie virus.
People may end up with encephalitis without any prior viral infection and this condition is known as autoimmune encephalitis and doctors usually don’t know what went bad with the immune system and caused this disease. Bacterial and fungal infections are very rare causes of inflammation of the brain.
Tests and Treatment
In order to properly diagnose the problem and its cause, your doctor may need to draw some blood for blood tests, perform lumbar puncture and EEG (electroencephalogram). CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans may also be useful for this purpose.
People diagnosed with encephalitis need to be treated in quiet environment. Headaches are usually closely monitored and treated with some pain killers, while the fever might be resolved sponging with lukewarm water, some electric fans or certain drugs. Seizures are treated with anti-epilepsy medications, bacterial encephalitis with antibiotics and fungal infections which have caused inflammation of the brain are treated with anti-fungal drugs.
Herpes simplex virus is treated with Zovirax (acyclovir) and if your doctor suspects you having this viral infection, he or she might give you the drug even before the test results, just to decrease medical problems associated with infection.