Medical Definition of Encephalitis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Encephalitis: Inflammation of the brain, which may be caused by a bacterium, a virus, or an allergic reaction. Some forms of viral encephalitis are contagious. Encephalitis usually runs a short course, with full recovery within a week, but can cause brain damage and death. Treatment of encephalitis must begin as early as possible to avoid potentially serious and lifelong effects. Depending on the cause of the inflammation, treatment may include use of antibiotics, antiviral medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs. If brain damage results from encephalitis, therapy (such as physical therapy or cognitive restoration therapy) may help patients regain lost functions.

Reviewed on 12/4/2018

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