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Infectious Encephalopathies and Leukoencephalopathies

Condition: Infectious encephalopathy means there is damage to the brain caused by an infection (infectious encephalitis). Leukoencephalopathy means that the damage is in the white matter of the brain. The white matter allows different parts of the brain to communicate with each other.

Background: Infectious encephalopathies are usually caused by viruses or bacteria. They may be passed to people by insect bites. Sometimes it is the body’s immune reaction to the infection that causes the brain damage. There are about 20,000 new cases of infectious encephalitis each year in the U.S. Some types are found only in certain parts of the country. People who have other health problems may be more likely to get these infections.     

History and Symptoms: The symptoms will vary depending on the organism that caused the infection. They may include seizures or problems with movement, vision, thinking, mood, or behavior. Some of these problems may last a long time, even after the infection has gone away.        

Physical Exam: The doctor will do tests to see how well the brain is working and will look for skin rashes or other signs of infection.     

Diagnostic Process: Blood tests and tests of the spinal fluid are used to find out what organism caused the infection and how the body is responding. CT and MRI are used to see if what parts of the brain are affected. 

Rehab Management: Medicines are given to fight the infection and treat problems like fatigue and depression. Other rehab efforts depend on the kind of problems seen in the patient. For thinking or movement problems, the patient may need help with activities or devices that help with physical problems.        

Other Resources for Patients and Families: Long term care may be needed, so patients and families may need help and education. 

For Patients and Families:

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