Encephalitis Lethargica
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What is Encephalitis Lethargica?

Encephalitis lethargia, also known as the sleeping sickness, can result into a prolonged state of unconsciousness. Encephalitis lethargia literally means an inflammation of the brain that makes you tired. Encephalitis lethargica is an atypical form of encephalitis, which attacks the brain of the person, leaving him in a speechless and motionless state.

Causes of Encephalitis Lethargica

Researchers believe that Encephalitis lethargia is the result of a viral or any other such type of infection. But a thought process has also come up stating that Encephalitis lethargia might be an auto-immune disease, where body’s immune system attacks the nervous system in response to a throat infection.

In the Encephalitis lethargia, the mid-brain and the basal ganglia become inflamed. Research shows that even though antibrain antibodies can be detected, no virus strain can be found in the brain, thus proving that it is not the virus that enters and attacks the brain, but rather the body’s immune cells which turn against the brain’s nerve cells. No exact cause for Encephalitis lethargia is known. Though research shows that many people suffering from Encephalitis lethargia had suffered from pharyngitis prior to the disease.

Symptoms of Encephalitis Lethargica

Encephalitis lethargia’s initial symptoms are high fever, headache and sore throat. As the disease progresses, symptoms like double vision, disturbance of eye movements, weakness of the upper body, tremors and strange movements, neck stiffness, intense muscle pains, a slowing of physical and mental response, drowsiness and lethargy start showing up.

Abnormal eye movements, Parkinsonism, upper body weakness, muscular pains, tremors, neck rigidity, and behavioral changes including psychosis are also few other symptoms of Encephalitis lethargia.

A person’s personality may change too, due to the unusual brain and nerve symptoms. At times the effect is such that it might turn a person psychotic, suffering from extremely disturbed thinking.

As the brain starts getting affected by this disease, the person becomes increasingly drowsy, sleepy, while some people might lose consciousness and some might even enter a state of coma lasting for months, even years. Most of the people, while recovering from Encephalitis lethargia, develop a form of Parkinson’s disease, which produces symptoms like slowness, tremor and abnormal muscle movements (dystonia).

Due to this, even though people can hear, understand and are fine mentally, they do not seem to respond much to the happenings around them. Even though in few cases problems persist even after the recovery from Encephalitis lethargia, it can be completely cured in others.

Treatment of Encephalitis Lethargica

Even though there is no cure found till date for Encephalitis lethargia, treatment can be administered to the patients focusing at supporting the person through the illness and dealing with other symptoms as and when they appear. Since it can become fatal, an intensive care needs to taken of while the treatment is on.

In the early stages of Encephalitis lethargia, intensive care unit may be necessary in order to keep the person breathing, properly fed, clean and protected from the infections that might attack him. This becomes extremely important especially when the patient is in the state of a coma. Doctors may prescribe steroid drugs, in order to reduce the inflammation in the brain.

As the patients start towards the recovery, providing them with physiotherapy, nutritional support and speech therapy would help in speeding up the recovery process. Along with this, the patients may also be in need of psychological and emotional support due to the changes in their behavior and the problems faced as the result of the disease.

The main motive of treatment in the initial stages should be stabilizing the patient’s condition. This can be achieved by administering steroids, though it does have effect in all the cases. If not treated in the early stages of the Encephalitis lethargia, it can become progressive causing lasting damage to the brain, at times to an extent of turning a man or child retarded.

Prognosis of Encephalitis Lethargica

Encephalitis lethargia can result in a changed lifestyle of the patient, as the brain gets affected by the disease. On the onset, if Parkinson’s disease is acquired, the patient might have to live with a deteriorated life condition. If not taken care of and managed well in the initial stages, Encephalitis lethargia may turn fatal. Cases have also been seen where Encephalitis lethargia has resulted in the complete loss of mental abilities amongst the patients.

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L-Dopa seemed to help but only for a short period, has other drugs been experimented with that are like L-Dopa but have a more lasting effect and less chance of building a tolerance.
#1 - C. Heatherly - 01/31/2013 - 22:09
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