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Encephalitis (cont.)

Medical Treatment

Encephalitis is usually a viral illness, which means that antibiotics are not used to treat viral infections. However, some antiviral drugs have been used to treat HSV infections, and some doctors may attempt to use antiviral drugs on other acute viral infections. No antiviral drugs to date are used to treat arboviral infections.

As mentioned previously, there are other nonviral causes (see above) of encephalitis, so the treatment for a given case actually depends on the doctor's working diagnosis. If the encephalitis is due to nonviral causes, then other treatments, specific to the cause, are warranted. Many clinicians consult an infectious-disease, immunology, or cancer expert to help manage the various types of treatments. With the exception of herpes encephalitis, the mainstay of treatment is symptom relief. People with viral encephalitis are kept hydrated with IV fluids while monitoring for brain swelling. Anticonvulsants can be given for seizure control. Steroids have not been established as being effective although they may still be used in some cases.

  • Herpes encephalitis can cause rapid death if not diagnosed and treated promptly. Therefore, medication is usually started when the doctor suspects herpes to be the diagnosis without waiting for the confirmatory results. The recommended treatment is acyclovir (Zovirax) given by IV for two to three weeks. Acyclovir-resistant herpes encephalitis can be treated with foscarnet (Foscavir). Liver and kidney functions are monitored through the course of medication.
  • Currently, the use of antiviral drugs in the treatment of other types of viral encephalitis is being studied.

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Patient Comments & Reviews

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Encephalitis - Symptoms

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Encephalitis »

Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain parenchyma, presents as diffuse and/or focal neuropsychological dysfunction.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


Medical Dictionary