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Medical negligence

World Encephalitis Day: How to spot the signs of encephalitis

Encephalitis, inflammation of the brain, can be difficult to diagnose. Here we share with you how to spot the signs of encephalitis and what to do when you've had a delay in diagnosis or if you've been misdiagnosed.

22 February 2022

Today is World Encephalitis Day, the global awareness day for those who are affected by encephalitis, by being diagnosed with the disease themselves, or seeing a family member affected by it. While it is rare and only affects approximately 4,000 people in the UK each year, recovery is a long process and can be distressing and challenging for those affected and their families.

What is Encephalitis?

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain, a rare but serious condition which can lead to brain damage if left untreated. It is usually caused by a viral, bacteria or fungal infection which spreads to the brain, or through a problem with the immune system which, as a result, attacks the brain. Viruses such as cold sores, glandular fever, mumps and flu can cause encephalitis and unfortunately, it has a high death rate and survivors are usually left with a brain injury which has life changing consequences.

How can I spot the signs of Encephalitis?

As encephalitis can have huge consequences on your life, it’s important to understand the symptoms to recognise the disease in its early stages. In its early stages the symptoms can appear similar to a flu for example, fevers, headaches and aching joints. However, over a few months, weeks or even hours, as a result of brain dysfunction, the symptoms can develop into confusion, having a stiff neck, seizures, hallucinations, light sensitivity, difficulties with speech, difficulty controlling movements and even reduced vision. It's therefore important that you get immediate medical attention so that it's caught early and the long-term effects of encephalitis are reduced.

What are the effects of a misdiagnosis of encephalitis?

Encephalitis is not easy to diagnose and its symptoms can be confused with other less serious illnesses. However, a failure in recognising the symptoms and not being provided with the appropriate tests by medical professionals, allows room for a misdiagnosis to occur which may result in incorrect treatment being received. This can have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life and even their chances of survival in more serious cases.

Encephalitis can cause serious long-term complications such as epilepsy, memory loss, personality and behavioural changes, depression, issues with balance and coordination fatigue. People with this condition often require extra care, support and extensive rehabilitation to help them adapt to their new circumstances and live with the disease. Support might come in the form of a neuropsychologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist or a speech therapist to help with communication skills.

What can I do if I have been misdiagnosed or I’ve had a delayed diagnosis of encephalitis?

When treated immediately, the long-term effects can be significantly reduced. However, when an incorrect diagnosis is received or there’s an unnecessary delay in diagnosis, this can dramatically impact both yours and your family’s life. When a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis occurs, you may be able to pursue a medical negligence claim which can help finance treatment for the condition including rehabilitation and care.

If you or a loved one received a delayed diagnosis of encephalitis or were misdiagnosed, causing a delay of receiving the correct treatment, contact one of our experts online or telephone 0330 107 5063.

The information contained in this article was correct at the time of publication.

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