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Long Term Effects of Encephalitis

One of the rare, yet potentially life threatening diseases that can occur in people of almost all ages is Encephalitis. It is the inflammation of the brain that is caused by a virus. The virus causing encephalitis can be of different types. Some of the most known viruses that have been responsible for severe encephalitis are The West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine, Herpes Simplex Virus, California and St. Louis. Although in many cases the damages of this disease are only similar to mild flu, but in severe cases, where full blown virus damage occurs, there can be swelling in the brain, bleeding within the brain and also severe nerve damage.

Long Term Effects of Encephalitis

Timely treatment after proper diagnosis of Encephalitis can make sure that the diseased person recovers soon. However, if the encephalitis is left untreated, or even if the treatment is delayed, the damages that occur inside the bran can make the disease fatal. The amount of damage and also its type is determined by the area in the brain that is damaged due to encephalitis. Overall, in every 10 Encephalitis patients, 1 person dies or survives with severe and life threatening permanent brain damages. These long term complications caused by Encephalitis are:

  1. Cognitive Damage Due To Encephalitis:

    Cognition is the ability of a person to think, remember and learn. In Encephalitis, a person’s some, not necessarily all; cognitive skills get damaged permanently or at least for long term. These damages are memory, ability to recall, speed of thinking, understanding and responding to a situation, ability of solving problems and also ability to concentrate as well as the understanding of how to use language. Out of 10 Encephalitis patients, 7 are found to have memory problems. Some even cannot remember how to talk and they have to be taught about this as well.

    When the memory problems are considered, the entire previously learned information is lost due to this cognitive damage. Also, learning new information becomes difficult as cognitive damage ruins those parts of the brain that help in learning new things.

  2. Coma as a Result of Encephalitis:

    One of the striking and most prominent after effects of Encephalitis is coma or loss of consciousness of the brain. It might last for a few seconds or even for a few weeks. But, it is an immediate impact that will certainly affect the brain. If not coma, the patient might have limited consciousness as well as go into a vegetative state of being.

  3. Communication Difficulties Caused Due To Encephalitis:

    In most of the cases, people have to suffer from the problem of communication. As communicating with others involve too many parts of the brain, damage in those parts may lead to difficulty in expressing feelings through language or words or even gestures. Sometimes, people have to be taught about how to talk all over again and also teach the use of language as they forget everything relating to this.

  4. Behavioral Changes Caused Due To Encephalitis:

    Although the difficulties such as in movement or in speech are the most striking ones as they can be seen, the more severe troubles that stay for long term are the behavioral changes. The most common change in behavior is mood swings. Sudden changes in mood and the inability to determine in what way the patient will accept a situation and in what way he or she will react to it becomes extremely difficult to understand. This change may occur and remain throughout the life.

    In most of the cases, the patients suffering from encephalitis are often found to have developed a sense of distress, utter hopelessness and helplessness. This often leads to severe sadness and a sense of depression that they fail to overcome and it persists for long. Apart from these, severe anger and anxiety is a permanent behavior among patients suffering from encephalitis. Even in little and trivial matters, there can be severe angry outbursts of the patient, absolutely unexpectedly.

  5. Movement Difficulties Caused Due To Encephalitis:

    Weakness, difficulty in the overall gait and also difficulty in walking are some of the common and yet long term adverse effect of viral Encephalitis. Along with these, there would be frequent and severe tremors of involuntary movements of the entire body, especially of the hands. This will trouble in holding any object. As sometimes, the entire gait and body posture of the patient gets damaged, he or she could finds extreme difficulty in walking or even in moving an object.

  6. Amnesia Caused Due To Encephalitis:

    To be more specific, Encephalitis often causes Post Traumatic Amnesia or PTA. In this condition, the patient is usually in a conscious state, but talks or behaves in a manner that is absolutely bizarre and uncharacteristic of that person.

  7. Epilepsy Due To Encephalitis:

    Yet another long term after effect of Encephalitis is epilepsy, this neurological disorder is a recurrent impact of damage in the brain. Marked by sensory disturbance often manifested in the form of convulsions and loss of consciousness, it is caused by the sudden and abnormal electrical activities that take place in the brain.

    These are the common long term effects of viral Encephalitis that can be encountered in most of the cases. Although, the occurrence of these phenomena largely varies from patient to patient, yet some of these will certainly be seen in most cases, even if the patient has been cured. There can be other difficulties too, such as hearing loss, blurred vision or visionary trouble as well as slurred speech. However, with proper therapies, these difficulties have often been cured.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Encephalitis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/encephalitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20356136
  2. NHS. (2021). Encephalitis. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/encephalitis/
  3. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2019). Encephalitis. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/NG128
  4. Venkatesan, A. (2015). Epidemiology and outcomes of acute encephalitis. Current Opinion in Neurology, 28(3), 277-282. https://journals.lww.com/co-neurology/Abstract/2015/06000/Epidemiology_and_outcomes_of_acute_encephalitis.15.aspx
  5. Michael, B. D., & Solomon, T. (2012). Seizures and encephalitis: clinical features, management, and potential pathophysiologic mechanisms. Epilepsia, 53(s4), 63-71. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/epi.12025

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 28, 2023

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