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What is Autoimmune Encephalitis?

Your immune system serves the purpose of keeping harmful invaders away, which is why we encourage ways to strengthen it. However, sometimes, your immune system malfunctions and recognizes your tissue as the enemy, leading to it attacking healthy tissue and possibly encephalitis. Our integrative medicine doctors of Coastal Integrative Medicine, in Stuart, FL, would like to explain what this is.

General Information

If you suffer from autoimmune encephalitis, your brain swells as the result of an autoimmune disorder that's affecting your central nervous system, particularly the brain.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Encephalitis

No matter the cause of encephalitis, the symptoms are the same. You may develop a fever, have nausea, experience neck stiffness or muscle weakness, or suffer from headaches. Nausea and joint pain are also possible.

Besides physical symptoms, autoimmune encephalitis may contribute to neurological symptoms as well, including the following:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Trouble moving or speaking
  • Confusion
  • Memories difficulties
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Behavioral changes
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety 
  • Psychosis

Causes

One of the main autoimmune disorders that can lead to autoimmune encephalitis is multiple sclerosis, which occurs when your body's immune system attacks the myelin. While it can affect the spinal cord, it may also affect the myelin in the brain, possibly leading to inflammation.

Although highly uncommon, you can develop Bickerstaff Brainstem (swelling in the brainstem) if you have Guillain Barre -- an autoimmune disorder that attacks your peripheral nervous system.

Other diseases that cause autoimmune encephalitis include:

  • Hashimoto's encephalopathy
  • Limbic encephalitis
  • Rasmussen's encephalitis
  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis 

Diagnosing Autoimmune Encephalitis  

If autoimmune encephalitis is suspected, our Stuart, FL, practitioner may perform neuroimaging like a CT scan or MRI. To rule out a brain or spinal cord infection if no autoimmune disorders are currently known, our physician may use a spinal tap to evaluate the spinal fluid. Sometimes, our practitioner may recommend any of the following tests:

  • Urine or stool tests
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Sputum culture
  • Intracranial pressure monitoring (ICP)

Treatment

Oftentimes, our practitioner will provide first or second-line immunotherapy. An immunosuppressant like azathioprine may be beneficial to some individuals. This medication is currently given to some MS patients when they can't tolerate standard treatment. 

Methylprednisolone, a corticosteroid, is also sometimes recommended for people with autoimmune encephalitis.  

We should mention that our practitioner addresses the root of the problem rather than masking the symptoms. 

Autoimmune encephalitis is rare. However, that doesn't take away from the severity of it. Fortunately, at Coastal Integrative Medicine, serving Stuart, FL, and the nearby region, our integrative medicine doctors can perform the necessary testing to diagnose it accurately and choose treatment to manage it effectively. 

Book an appointment with our practitioner today by calling us at (772) 344-1409.

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