Have you ever experienced a headache that felt like your brain was on fire? Or perhaps you experience poor mental focus and constantly feel groggy throughout the day.
Often, these symptoms are attributed to excessive tension, stress, or a lack of quality sleep. However, these symptoms may occasionally be the result of brain inflammation.
Do You Have Brain Inflammation?
There are several causes of brain inflammation. Brain inflammation has to be treated as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage or death. First, let's try to find out, do you have brain inflammation or not.
What Is Brain Inflammation?
Brain inflammation is also known as encephalitis. Another type of inflammation closely related to the brain is known as meningitis. Both of these are distinct medical conditions that affect different parts of the brain.
While encephalitis refers to the inflammation of the brain itself, meningitis refers to inflammation that affects the meninges, which are the protective membranes located around your brain and spinal cord. Both these medical conditions can lead to devastating outcomes if the patient is not given appropriate and rapid life-saving treatment .
In severe cases, both conditions can lead to brain damage, stroke, or even death .
Symptoms Of Brain Inflammation
There are several symptoms suggestive of brain inflammation. Yet, these symptoms alone cannot confirm the diagnosis.
Some early and milder symptoms resemble symptoms of a cold or flu. They include the following:-
- Body soreness
- Aching muscles
- Feeling unwell and tired [4, 5]
These early flu-like symptoms may or may not appear. Occasionally, the first symptoms you observe may be more serious . Some severe symptoms of brain inflammation include the following:-
- Impairment in your speech, vision, or hearing
- An altered level of consciousness or alertness
- Behavioral changes or increased irritability
- Loss of consciousness
- Weakness or inability to move your body (partial paralysis)
- Loss of sensation in particular regions of your body
- Confusion, drowsiness, or disorientation
- Failure to control the movement of the eye
- Hallucinations (hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that don't actually exist)
- Memory loss and impaired judgment
- Double vision [4, 8]
If you experience any of these severe symptoms, you should seek treatment immediately. At times, the symptoms of encephalitis overlap with meningitis, and you may experience a severe headache with neck stiffness and sensitivity to bright light .
The signs and symptoms of encephalitis may differ depending on which part of the brain is affected by encephalitis. Sometimes, the symptoms may be more localized, and other times, they are more widespread or generalized .
Necessary Tests And Diagnostics
Your doctor will run a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis. This may include a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test or an analysis of your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). CSF is the clear fluid that cushions and surrounds your brain and spinal cord to protect them .
Besides that, your doctor will also obtain a thorough medical history from you. Some essential information includes recent infections or illnesses, recent travel, and recent contact with ill individuals. If you have encephalitis, your doctor will try and pinpoint the most likely cause .
Causes Of Brain Inflammation
Inflammation occurs as part of your body's defense mechanism. Your immune response is triggered by toxic stimuli, physical injury, or infection by pathogenic organisms, and inflammation plays a crucial role in that response .
In general, this inflammatory process is beneficial and acts to pioneer your tissue's recovery and repair. However, dysregulated, excessive, or uncontrolled inflammation can lead to detrimental outcomes .
Encephalitis can be a result of an autoimmune reaction. An autoimmune response can cause encephalitis when your immune system mistakenly attacks the brain. A tumor in the body or the side effects of vaccination can trigger the body to turn against the brain, recognize it as foreign, and launch an attack. This process leads to inflammation in the brain and autoimmune encephalitis. The immune system may also attack the brain post-infection, causing post-infection encephalitis .
The Most Common Cause Of Encephalitis
Overall, the most common cause of encephalitis is still infection by viruses. For example, the herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can be the cause of viral encephalitis. Less commonly, encephalitis may be caused by another pathogen such as bacteria [5, 6].
Viruses such as HSV can enter your bloodstream to cause an infection. In some cases, this infection can spread to the brain to cause inflammation and encephalitis. There are several ways the virus can enter the central nervous system (CNS).
For example, these viruses can enter the brain through a bundle of nerves linked to the brain after primary infection in the back of the throat. The virus can also penetrate the blood-brain barrier to garner access to the CNS after recurring viral infections. Lastly, the virus can invade the CNS by reactivating latent virus particles present in the brain from previous infections .
The West Nile virus and viruses that cause mumps, rubella, dengue, and yellow fever can also cause viral encephalitis .
Possible Treatment If You Have Brain Inflammation
If you have been diagnosed with encephalitis, there are several treatment options that your healthcare team may perform. The treatment they provide will combat the cause of infection if it has been identified and relieve the pain and symptoms associated with the condition.
You may be given antiviral or antibiotic medications if those pathogens are the cause of the inflammation. If you have autoimmune encephalitis, your doctor may start you on corticosteroids, or you may have to undergo surgery to remove the associated tumor [4,7].
In addition to that, you may also be started on fluids. These saline solutions are administered through the veins to prevent dehydration. Painkillers may help alleviate fever and discomfort, and anti-seizure medications are occasionally required to manage seizures or fits [4,7]. If you experience seizures, your doctor will use an electroencephalogram (EEG) test to monitor the activity in your brain to determine if the anti-seizure medications are working effectively for you .
Do You Have Brain Inflammation: Summing Up
Brain inflammation, or encephalitis, is most commonly caused by a viral infection in which the virus attains access into the CNS. This condition requires immediate medical treatment, as any delay or lack of proper attention can lead to permanent injury to the brain or death.
Hence, if you experience any unusual symptoms such as a high fever and terrible headache that doesn't go away, it's best to get it checked out. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry.