Encephalitis and Meningitis (cont.)

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What is the treatment of encephalitis and meningitis?

Antibiotic and/or antiviral medications need to be considered urgently when the diagnosis of encephalitis or meningitis is suggested. In some situations, anticonvulsants are used to prevent or treat seizures (a possible side effect of inflammation of the brain). Sometimes corticosteroids are administered to reduce brain swelling and inflammation. Sedatives may be needed for irritability or restlessness. Additional medications might be used to decrease the fever or treat headaches. The need for hospitalization usually depends on the type of meningitis the patient has and the severity of symptoms.

What is the prognosis (outlook), and what are the complications for patients with encephalitis or meningitis?

The prognosis for encephalitis or meningitis varies. Some cases are mild, short, and relatively benign and patients have full recovery. Other cases are severe, and permanent impairment or death is possible. This is usually determined by the type of infection present and how quickly treatment can be started. Meningitis can lead to permanent damage to the nervous system and can cause hydrocephalus. The acute phase of encephalitis may last for one to two weeks, with gradual or sudden resolution of fever and neurological symptoms. Neurological symptoms may require many months before full recovery occurs. Some patients will not fully recover.

With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, many patients recover from meningitis. Viral meningitis can be self-limiting to 10 days or less, however, in some cases, the disease progresses so rapidly that death occurs during the first 48 hours, despite early treatment.


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