Encephalitis is the medical name for inflammation of the brain. Brain inflammation occurs through a variety of reasons, but in this case is most commonly the result of a viral infection. Encephalitis may be considered primary or secondary, meaning it's the direct result of a viral infection of some part of the spinal cord or brain, or results of an infection that has spread from another part of the body to the brain. Encephalitis is relatively uncommon in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, though it may be more prevalent in other locations throughout the globe.
What Causes Encephalitis?
In most cases, encephalitis is caused by viral infections which may include but are not limited to bites from rabid animals, bites of mosquitoes such as those caring the West Nile virus, as well as ticks or other insects. Encephalitis may also be caused by herpes viruses. Herpes viruses may include herpes simplex, the Varicella-zoster virus, which commonly causes shingles or chicken pox, and Epstein-Barr virus, which most commonly causes a condition called mononucleosis.
Primary encephalitis may occur sporadically, or may be the result of an epidemic. Secondary encephalitis occurs following infection and another part of the body. In some individuals, lime disease or parasite infections may cause encephalitis, though individuals with weakened immune systems may also develop the condition through a mosquito.
Some of the most common symptoms of encephalitis include:
In more severe cases, viral encephalitis may cause respiratory arrest or death. For this reason, individuals are advised to seek medical treatment following signs and symptoms as soon as possible.
Encephalitis is most commonly diagnosed through a careful and thorough physical history of signs and symptoms with a primary health care provider. Imaging such as CT scans (computed tomography) and functional MRI or MR (magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance respectively) may help provide a diagnosis and determine degree or severity of brain swelling.
Common Treatments for Encephalitis
In most cases, encephalitis is not a severe condition and made most commonly be dealt with through rest and acetaminophen products to help relieve low-grade fevers and headache. However, moderate to severe cases of encephalitis are often resistant to drugs and medications, including Zovirax (acyclovir). The most common medicine treatment for encephalitis may include acyclovir or ganciclovir, more commonly known as Cytovene.
Physicians may also prescribe an NSAIDs, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or corticosteroids to reduce the amount of pressure or swelling and the skull. In some cases, anti-convulsants may also be prescribed if the individual has experienced seizures as a result of the brain swelling.
Cost of Encephalitis Medications
The cost of medications depend on what type of medication is prescribed and geographical location. In the U.S., for example, acyclovir may be prescribed in oral or injection form. The medicine may cost between $30 and $100, depending on the company offering the medication, as well as dosage. Travelers to foreign destinations may be able to medications at reduced costs for treatment, depending on country.
Plenty of rest, combined with a nutritious and well balanced diet is the first course of treatment most individuals will receive. The Mayo Clinic suggests taking proactive measures to prevent infection by wearing adequate protection at dawn and dusk, and applying adequate amounts of mosquito repellent that contain DEET and picaridin to help prevent mosquito bites, the most common carriers for viral infections that cause encephalitis.