What is brain fever?

Brain fever refers to any condition that causes the brain or any part of the brain to swell, causing fever as one of the symptoms. Conditions described as brain fever include meningitis and encephalitis. Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, while encephalitis is inflammation of the brain itself.

Meningitis is a brain fever that affects the meninges, or the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, and is caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Viral infection is the most common cause of meningitis. Symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, and stiff neck. Patients sometimes confuse symptoms of meningitis with symptoms of the flu. All meningitis, whether viral, bacterial or fungal, is medically serious and requires immediate treatment by a doctor, but bacterial meningitis is the most dangerous of the three and constitutes a medical emergency.

Brain inflammation, also known as encephalitis, is usually caused by an infection of a viral nature. Encephalitis can sometimes go away on its own, but since it can be potentially serious, anyone experiencing symptoms of brain fever should seek the care of a medical professional. Symptoms of encephalitis include fever, joint pain, and fatigue. A severe infection can cause symptoms such as seizures, personality changes, and localized paralysis.

Diagnosing brain fever, whether it's meningitis or encephalitis, usually involves a series of tests. A common diagnostic procedure for both conditions is lumbar puncture or spinal tap, which involves collecting a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for analysis. In the case of bacterial meningitis, lumbar puncture can sometimes help doctors find out which specific bacteria is responsible for the condition. Meningitis can also be diagnosed by blood tests or by x-rays or other imaging means. Diagnosis of encephalitis may include procedures such as electroencephalography (EEG) or brain biopsy.

Treatment of meningitis depends on the cause of the brain fever. If the infection is viral, doctors generally advise patients to rest and drink plenty of fluids and to take pain medication as needed. However, bacterial meningitis requires intensive treatment with powerful antibiotics. The exact type of antibiotic a doctor chooses depends on the bacteria responsible for the infection. Cerebrospinal fever caused by bacteria can kill a person in just a few days if left untreated.

Cases of encephalitis are sometimes mild and do not need treatment other than rest, fluids, and pain medication. Since encephalitis is usually caused by viruses, treatment can be challenging. However, when this type of brain fever is severe, doctors will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help decrease intracranial pressure and swelling.

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