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Lesson 30. Encephalitis


a. Definition. Encephalitis is an infectious disease of the central nervous system characterized by pathological changes in the gray and white matter of the cord and brain. Pathophysiological changes associated with encephalitis include:

(1) Severe, diffuse inflammation of the brain.
(2) Intense lymphocytic infiltration, especially around cerebral blood vessels.
(3) Possible extensive nerve cell destruction.

b.     Causes of Encephalitis.

(1) Microorganisms.
(2) Chemical toxins (lead, arsenic, carbon monoxide).
(3) As a complication of infectious childhood diseases (measles, rubella, chicken pox).

c.      Signs and Symptoms. (Onset of symptoms is usually very sudden.)

(1) Fever.
(2) Severe headache.
(3) Nuchal rigidity.
(4) Vomiting.
(5) Altered level of consciousness, lethargy.
(6) Seizures.
(7) Incoordination, muscular weakness.
(8) Visual disturbances (photophobia, diplopia).

d. Management.

(1) Because no specific antiviral measure has yet been developed, medical treatment is symptomatic.
(2) Specific supportive nursing measures which apply to the patient with meningitis should be followed.

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015