640 South State StreetDover, Delaware 19901
21 West Clarke AvenueMilford, Delaware 19963
401 North Carter RoadSmyrna, DE 19977
640 S. State StreetDover DE 1990121 West Clarke AvenueMilford DE 19963
301 Jefferson AveMilford, DE 19963
1275 S. State StreetDover, Delaware 19901
Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. The inflammation causes the brain to swell, which leads to changes in neurological function, resulting in mental confusion and seizures.
The cause of encephalitis depends on the season, the area of the country, and the type of exposure. Viruses are the leading cause of encephalitis. Although vaccines for many viruses, including measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox have greatly lowered the rate of encephalitis from these diseases, other viruses can cause encephalitis. These include herpes simplex virus and rabies.
Encephalitis can also occur following infection by disease-carrying agents including ticks (Lyme disease), mosquitoes (West Nile virus), and cats (toxoplasmosis). Encephalitis can also be caused by a bacterial infection.
Encephalitis often follows a viral illness such as an upper respiratory infection, or a gastrointestinal illness, that may cause diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. The following are the most common symptoms of encephalitis. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
In severe cases, symptoms may include:
The symptoms of encephalitis may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
The diagnosis of encephalitis is made after the sudden or gradual onset of specific symptoms and after diagnostic testing. During the exam, your health care provider will ask about your medical history, including what immunizations you’ve had. Your health care provider may also ask if you have recently had a cold or other respiratory illness, or a gastrointestinal illness, and if you have recently had a tick bite, have been around pets or other animals, or have traveled to certain areas of the country.
Diagnostic tests that may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of encephalitis may include the following:
Specific treatment for encephalitis will be determined by your health care provider based on:
The key to treating encephalitis is early detection and treatment. A person with encephalitis requires immediate hospitalization and close monitoring.
The goal of treatment is to reduce the swelling in the head and to prevent other related complications. Medications to control the infection, seizures, fever, or other conditions may be used.
Complications of encephalitis depend on the severity of inflammation and whether you have other organ problems. In severe cases, a breathing machine may be needed to help you breathe easier. In some severe cases, the disease progresses rapidly resulting in death. Mild cases are usually short and result in a full recovery. Unfortunately, severe cases can cause permanent impairment including fatigue, irritability, impaired concentration, seizures, hearing loss, memory loss, and blindness.
These measures can help prevent encephalitis:
If you are exposed to someone with bacterial encephalitis, you may be offered a course of antibiotics to prevent you from getting the disease.
As you recover, physical, occupational, or speech therapy may be necessary to help regain muscle strength and/or speech skills.
Loved ones can be educated on how to best care for you at home. You will require frequent medical evaluations following hospitalization.
You should contact your health care provider if there are signs of another infection including:
Also, signs of neurological involvement such as:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.