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  • Autoimmune Encephalitis

    Autoimmune encephalitis is inflammation of the brain that occurs when the brain is attacked by the body’s immune system. This inflammation can impair brain function and, in severe cases, be life threatening.

    The cause of the faulty immune system response may be the result of a virus infecting the brain or it may be a response to an infection somewhere else in the body. However, in most cases the exact cause is unknown.

    Additional Information

    How common is autoimmune encephalitis?

    Autoimmune encephalitis is a rare condition. Several thousand cases of encephalitis are reported each year, but most of these are caused by a virus directly infecting the brain rather than the brain being attacked by a person’s own immune system.

    Who gets autoimmune encephalitis?

    Autoimmune encephalitis can occur in people of all ages and in both genders, but it has most frequently been diagnosed in young women.

    How is autoimmune encephalitis diagnosed?

    Your doctor may use the following tests to diagnose autoimmune encephalitis:

    • MRI scan
    • Electroencephalography (EEG)
    • Blood tests

    Symptoms of Autoimmune Encephalitis

    Encephalitis may cause mild flu-like symptoms, such as:

    • Headaches
    • Fever
    • Aches in muscles or joints
    • Fatigue

    More severe cases of encephalitis may cause the following symptoms:

    • Sudden, severe dementia
    • Hallucinations
    • Agitation
    • Seizures
    • Partial paralysis in the arms and legs
    • Muscle weakness
    • Lack of voluntary coordination (ataxia)
    • Personality changes
    • Problems with speech or hearing
    • Double vision
    • Loss of consciousness

    Contact a medical professional if you are experiencing symptoms of autoimmune encephalitis. Severe cases require immediate medical attention.

    Treatments for Autoimmune Encephalitis

    Treatment options for autoimmune encephalitis include:

    • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids
    • Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange)
    • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg)
    • Immunosuppressant drugs

    Information and Resources about Autoimmune Encephalitis:

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke | Meningitis and Encephalitis Information Page

    Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance

    Request an Appointment with an Autoimmune Encephalitis Specialist

    Call (602) 406-6262

    About Barrow Neurological Institute
    Since our doors opened as a regional specialty center in 1962, we have grown into one of the premier destinations in the world for neurology and neurosurgery. Our experienced, highly skilled, and comprehensive team of neurological specialists can provide you with a complete spectrum of care–from diagnosis through outpatient neurorehabilitation–under one roof. Barrow Neurological Institute: Discover. Educate. Heal.