Brain fever refers to any condition that causes the brain or any part of the brain to become inflamed, causing fever as one of the symptoms. Conditions that are described as brain fever include meningitis and encephalitis. Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and the 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 it is caused by viral, bacterial or fungal infection. Viral infection is the most common cause of meningitis. Symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache and stiffness in the neck. Patients sometimes mistake meningitis symptoms for flu symptoms. All meningitis, whether viral, bacterial or fungal, is medically serious and requires prompt 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 that is viral in nature. Encephalitis can sometimes go away on its own, but since it can be potentially serious, any person who is experiencing these symptoms should seek the care of a medical professional. Symptoms of encephalitis include fever, pain in the joints and fatigue. A severe infection can cause symptoms like seizures, changes in personality and localized paralysis.
Diagnosis of this condition, whether meningitis or encephalitis, usually involves a series of tests. One diagnostic procedure common to both conditions is lumbar puncture or spinal tap, which involves the gathering of a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for analysis. In the case of bacterial meningitis, lumbar puncture can sometimes help doctors discover which specific bacterium is responsible for the condition. Meningitis can also be diagnosed through analysis of blood or by x-ray or other means of imaging. Diagnosis of encephalitis can involve procedures like electroencephalography (EEG) or biopsy of the brain.
Treatment of meningitis depends on what is causing the brain fever. If the infection is viral, then doctors usually advise patients to get plenty of rest and fluids and to take pain medication as needed. Bacterial meningitis, however, requires intensive treatment with powerful antibiotics. The exact kind of antibiotic a doctor chooses depends on the bacterium responsible for the infection. Cerebrospinal fever caused by bacteria can kill a person in only a few days if it is not treated.
Cases of encephalitis are sometimes mild and need no other treatment other than rest, fluids and pain medication. Since encephalitis is usually caused by viruses, treatment can be a challenge. When this type of brain fever is severe, however, doctors will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help lessen intracranial pressure and swelling.