Disease: Encephalitis and Meningitis

    Encephalitis and meningitis facts

    • Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain.
    • Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes (called meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord.
    • Both infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses and rarely a fungus.
    • Headache and fever are the most common symptoms of encephalitis and meningitis. Stiff neck, confusion, or lethargy can also be present.
    • The diagnosis is usually made by performing a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
    • A CT scan or MRI of the brain can also be helpful but usually is only done in addition to the spinal tap.
    • Treatment depends on identifying the underlying cause. If bacteria are causing the infection, then antibiotics are indicated.
    • Anyone experiencing symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis should see a doctor immediately.
    • Depending on the organism causing the infection, close contacts can also get sick and need to be evaluated by a health-care professional.
    • Basic methods that help to prevent the spread of infections (hand washing and covering ones mouth when coughing) can also help prevent the spread of some forms of meningitis.
    • Being up to date on vaccinations will help prevent certain forms of meningitis.

    What is encephalitis?

    Encephalitis is brain inflammation. There are many types of encephalitis, most of which are caused by infections. Most often these infections are caused by viruses. In addition to infections, encephalitis can also be caused by certain diseases that result in an inflammation of the brain.

    What causes encephalitis?

    Encephalitis is a rare condition that is caused most often by viruses. The leading cause of severe encephalitis is the herpes simplex virus. Other causes include enterovirus infections or mosquito-borne viruses. The very young and the elderly are more likely to have a severe case.

    Exposure to viruses can occur through breathing in respiratory droplets from infected people, certain insect bites, and direct skin contact.

    What are encephalitis symptoms and signs?

    The signs and symptoms of encephalitis can range from very mild flu-like symptoms to potentially life-threatening events. Signs and symptoms of encephalitis include sudden fever, headache, vomiting, visual sensitivity to light, stiff neck and back, confusion, drowsiness, unsteady gait, and irritability. Loss of consciousness, poor responsiveness, seizures, muscle weakness, sudden severe dementia, and memory loss can also be found in patients with encephalitis.

    Anyone experiencing symptoms of encephalitis should see a doctor immediately.

    What is meningitis?

    Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges (membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

    What causes meningitis?

    Meningitis may be caused by many different viruses and bacteria. It can also be caused by diseases that can trigger inflammation of tissues of the body without infection (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Behcet's disease).

    What are meningitis symptoms and signs?

    The classic signs and symptoms of meningitis are headache, fever, and stiff neck (in adults and older children). Symptoms of meningitis may appear suddenly and can also include nausea and vomiting. Changes in behavior, such as confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty waking up, are other important symptoms. In infants, symptoms of meningitis are often much less specific and may include irritability or tiredness, poor feeding, and fever.

    Some types of meningitis can be deadly if not treated promptly. Anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis should see a doctor immediately.

    What is encephalomyelitis?

    Encephalomyelitis is inflammation of both the brain and spinal cord. Encephalomyelitis can be caused by a variety of conditions that lead to irritation of the brain and spinal cord. Among the common causes of encephalomyelitis are viruses that infect the nervous tissues (for example, herpes zoster virus). People with encephalomyelitis can exhibit combinations of the various symptoms of either encephalitis or meningitis.

    How are encephalitis and meningitis diagnosed?

    Encephalitis or meningitis is suggested when the symptoms described above are present. The doctor diagnoses encephalitis or meningitis after a completing a thorough history (asking the patient questions) and examination. The examination includes special maneuvers to detect signs of inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). These signs and symptoms can include neck stiffness, headache, and fever. Based on the history and examination, the doctor suggests specific tests to further help in determining the diagnosis.

    Tests that are used in the evaluation of individuals suspected of having encephalitis or meningitis include evaluation of the blood for signs of infection and possible presence of bacteria, brain scanning (such as CT scan or MRI scan), and cerebrospinal fluid analysis.

    A lumbar puncture is the most common method of obtaining a sample of the fluid in the spinal canal (the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) for examination. A lumbar puncture (LP) is the insertion of a needle into the fluid within the spinal canal. It is termed a "lumbar puncture" because the needle goes into the lumbar portion of the back (the lower portion of the back). The needle passes between the bony parts of the spine until it reaches the cerebral spinal fluid. A small amount of fluid is then collected and sent to the laboratory for examination. The evaluation of the spinal fluid is usually necessary for the definite diagnosis and to help make optimal treatment decisions (such as the appropriate choice of antibiotics).

    The diagnosis is confirmed by abnormal spinal fluid results and, in the case of an infection, by identifying the organism causing the infection. In patients with meningitis, the CSF fluid often has a low glucose (sugar) level and increased white blood cell count. In addition, the fluid can be used to identify some viral causes of meningitis (PCR or polymerase chain reaction) or be used to culture bacterial organisms causing the meningitis.

    What is the treatment of encephalitis and meningitis?

    Antibiotic and/or antiviral medications need to be considered urgently when the diagnosis of encephalitis or meningitis is suggested. In some situations, anticonvulsants are used to prevent or treat seizures (a possible side effect of inflammation of the brain). Sometimes corticosteroids are administered to reduce brain swelling and inflammation. Sedatives may be needed for irritability or restlessness. Additional medications might be used to decrease the fever or treat headaches. The need for hospitalization usually depends on the type of meningitis the patient has and the severity of symptoms.

    What is the prognosis (outlook) and what are the complications for patients with encephalitis or meningitis?

    The prognosis for encephalitis or meningitis varies. Some cases are mild, short, and relatively benign and patients have full recovery. Other cases are severe, and permanent impairment or death is possible. This is usually determined by the type of infection present and how quickly treatment can be started. Meningitis can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system and can cause hydrocephalus. The acute phase of encephalitis may last for one to two weeks, with gradual or sudden resolution of fever and neurological symptoms. Neurological symptoms may require many months before full recovery occurs. Some patients will not fully recover.

    With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, many patients recover from meningitis. Viral meningitis can be self-limited to 10 days or less. However, in some cases, the disease progresses so rapidly that death occurs during the first 48 hours, despite early treatment.

    What are encephalitis symptoms and signs?

    The signs and symptoms of encephalitis can range from very mild flu-like symptoms to potentially life-threatening events. Signs and symptoms of encephalitis include sudden fever, headache, vomiting, visual sensitivity to light, stiff neck and back, confusion, drowsiness, unsteady gait, and irritability. Loss of consciousness, poor responsiveness, seizures, muscle weakness, sudden severe dementia, and memory loss can also be found in patients with encephalitis.

    Anyone experiencing symptoms of encephalitis should see a doctor immediately.

    What is meningitis?

    Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges (membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord).

    What causes meningitis?

    Meningitis may be caused by many different viruses and bacteria. It can also be caused by diseases that can trigger inflammation of tissues of the body without infection (such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Behcet's disease).

    What are meningitis symptoms and signs?

    The classic signs and symptoms of meningitis are headache, fever, and stiff neck (in adults and older children). Symptoms of meningitis may appear suddenly and can also include nausea and vomiting. Changes in behavior, such as confusion, sleepiness, and difficulty waking up, are other important symptoms. In infants, symptoms of meningitis are often much less specific and may include irritability or tiredness, poor feeding, and fever.

    Some types of meningitis can be deadly if not treated promptly. Anyone experiencing symptoms of meningitis should see a doctor immediately.

    What is encephalomyelitis?

    Encephalomyelitis is inflammation of both the brain and spinal cord. Encephalomyelitis can be caused by a variety of conditions that lead to irritation of the brain and spinal cord. Among the common causes of encephalomyelitis are viruses that infect the nervous tissues (for example, herpes zoster virus). People with encephalomyelitis can exhibit combinations of the various symptoms of either encephalitis or meningitis.

    How are encephalitis and meningitis diagnosed?

    Encephalitis or meningitis is suggested when the symptoms described above are present. The doctor diagnoses encephalitis or meningitis after a completing a thorough history (asking the patient questions) and examination. The examination includes special maneuvers to detect signs of inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). These signs and symptoms can include neck stiffness, headache, and fever. Based on the history and examination, the doctor suggests specific tests to further help in determining the diagnosis.

    Tests that are used in the evaluation of individuals suspected of having encephalitis or meningitis include evaluation of the blood for signs of infection and possible presence of bacteria, brain scanning (such as CT scan or MRI scan), and cerebrospinal fluid analysis.

    A lumbar puncture is the most common method of obtaining a sample of the fluid in the spinal canal (the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF) for examination. A lumbar puncture (LP) is the insertion of a needle into the fluid within the spinal canal. It is termed a "lumbar puncture" because the needle goes into the lumbar portion of the back (the lower portion of the back). The needle passes between the bony parts of the spine until it reaches the cerebral spinal fluid. A small amount of fluid is then collected and sent to the laboratory for examination. The evaluation of the spinal fluid is usually necessary for the definite diagnosis and to help make optimal treatment decisions (such as the appropriate choice of antibiotics).

    The diagnosis is confirmed by abnormal spinal fluid results and, in the case of an infection, by identifying the organism causing the infection. In patients with meningitis, the CSF fluid often has a low glucose (sugar) level and increased white blood cell count. In addition, the fluid can be used to identify some viral causes of meningitis (PCR or polymerase chain reaction) or be used to culture bacterial organisms causing the meningitis.

    What is the treatment of encephalitis and meningitis?

    Antibiotic and/or antiviral medications need to be considered urgently when the diagnosis of encephalitis or meningitis is suggested. In some situations, anticonvulsants are used to prevent or treat seizures (a possible side effect of inflammation of the brain). Sometimes corticosteroids are administered to reduce brain swelling and inflammation. Sedatives may be needed for irritability or restlessness. Additional medications might be used to decrease the fever or treat headaches. The need for hospitalization usually depends on the type of meningitis the patient has and the severity of symptoms.

    What is the prognosis (outlook) and what are the complications for patients with encephalitis or meningitis?

    The prognosis for encephalitis or meningitis varies. Some cases are mild, short, and relatively benign and patients have full recovery. Other cases are severe, and permanent impairment or death is possible. This is usually determined by the type of infection present and how quickly treatment can be started. Meningitis can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system and can cause hydrocephalus. The acute phase of encephalitis may last for one to two weeks, with gradual or sudden resolution of fever and neurological symptoms. Neurological symptoms may require many months before full recovery occurs. Some patients will not fully recover.

    With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, many patients recover from meningitis. Viral meningitis can be self-limited to 10 days or less. However, in some cases, the disease progresses so rapidly that death occurs during the first 48 hours, despite early treatment.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    Encephalomyelitis is inflammation of both the brain and spinal cord. Encephalomyelitis can be caused by a variety of conditions that lead to irritation of the brain and spinal cord. Among the common causes of encephalomyelitis are viruses that infect the nervous tissues (for example, herpes zoster virus). People with encephalomyelitis can exhibit combinations of the various symptoms of either encephalitis or meningitis.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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