What Are the Long-Term Effects of Viral Encephalitis?

An inflammation of the brain, encephalitis commonly results from a viral infection, such as the herpes simplex virus. People can contract viral encephalitis by eating contaminated food or getting bitten by an insect carrying the virus. The University of Maryland Medical Center points out that each year about 10,000 to 20,000 people in the United States get encephalitis. While most people recover from viral encephalitis within weeks or months, some people can have long-term effects, especially if brain damage occurred.

Personality and Mood Changes

The MayoClinic.com notes that if a person has severe viral encephalitis, he can have personality or mood changes that last for a year or longer. For example, viral encephalitis patients may develop depression, a mood disorder that causes severe sadness and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. When depressed, patients can have changes in sleep, appetite and weight. Depression patients may develop suicidal thoughts, in which they consider harming or killing themselves. Patients may also become irritable or apathetic.

Movement Problems

Damage to the brain from viral encephalitis can result in movement problems. Some patients may have weakness, which can affect walking or moving objects. The MayoClinic.com points out that viral encephalitis patients may have gait problems, which make it difficult to walk normally. A loss of muscle control may occur with viral encephalitis. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that patients may have tremors, which are involuntary movements. For example, a patient can have hand tremors, which can affect holding objects.

Cognitive Problems

Viral encephalitis can cause cognitive problems in patients, which can affect learning. For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center explains that patients can have memory loss. The memory problems can affect previously learned information or cause problems with learning new information. Problems concentrating can also occur, which can exacerbate difficulties remembering new information.

Other Long-Term Effects

Viral encephalitis can result in other long-term effects, depending on what parts of the brain became affected. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that patients can have problems with vision, hearing or speech. For example, a patient may have slurred speech or blurry vision. Another patient may have hearing loss. Sensation changes can occur, such as numbness or tingling, which can affect one or more limbs. The MayoClinic.com adds that viral encephalitis can cause long-term fatigue in some patients.

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