Definition of Encephalitis
Encephalitis is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the brain, most often due to infections.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Encephalitis is a rare condition. It occurs more often in the first year of life and decreases with age. The very young and the elderly are more likely to have a severe case.
Some patients may have symptoms of a cold or stomach infection before encephalitis symptoms begin.
Signs and tests
An examination may show:
The goals of treatment are to provide supportive care (rest, nutrition, fluids) to help the body fight the infection, and to relieve symptoms. Reorientation and emotional support for confused or delirious people may be helpful.
The outcome varies. Some cases are mild and short, and the person fully recovers. Other cases are severe, and permanent impairment or death is possible.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Unviersity of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 7/26/2010