What is Encephalitis?

Encephalitis is caused by inflammation of the brain, which can be triggered by a viral infection, environmental toxin , traumatic injury, tumor growth, autoimmune diseases and parasites, among other causes.


Patients may experience flu-like symptoms that lead into high fever for days or weeks, as the infection progresses. Encephalitis symptoms may resemble serious conditions such as meningitis, multiple sclerosis and stroke . Encephalitis can be life threatening or cause permanent neurological damage if not treated promptly.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Feeling shaky
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Vomiting
  • Behavior changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Hallucinations
  • Cough
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Issues with walking, eating and excretion


Encephalitis is diagnosed using a combination of clinical tests performed by our neurology team, a medical examination and review of your medical history.

Tests for encephalitis can include:

  • MRI / CT Scan  – Neuroimaging of the brain.
  • Lumbar Puncture (spinal tap) – Injection into the spine to check spinal fluids  for signs of infection in the brain or spinal cord.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG) – Evaluates seizures or specific patterns of electrical activity in the brain.
  • Blood Tests – Urine and stool tests to identify organisms or antibodies responsible for an infection.
  • Sputum culture – A test of the phlegm that is coughed up from the lungs to see if infections are present.
  • Biopsy – Examination of affected brain tissue under a microscope.
  • Intracranial pressure monitoring (ICP) – To measure the pressure inside the skull to monitor the brain swelling.


The key to  encephalitis is early detection and effective treatment of the underlying cause. Encephalitis patients require extensive care to watch for seizures, brain swelling, respiratory failure or heart rhythm changes.

Treatment may include:

  • Antiviral and antibacterial Medications – Used to fight viral infections affecting the brain.
  • Immunotherapy – Such as steroids, intravenous antibodies (IVIg) or plasma exchange, to address certain types of autoimmune encephalitis.
  • Anti seizure medications or other therapies to control seizures.
  • A breathing tube, urinary catheter, or feeding tube may be necessary if the person’s encephalitis has caused loss of consciousness.