Your body’s immune system protects you from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of the body.
No one is sure what causes autoimmune diseases. They do tend to run in families. Women – particularly African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native-American women – have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases.
There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. This makes it hard for your health care provider to know if you really have one of these diseases, and if so, which one. Getting a diagnosis can be frustrating and stressful. Often, the first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches and a low fever. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain and swelling.
The diseases may also have flare-ups, when they get worse, and remissions, when symptoms get better or disappear. Treatment depends on the disease, but in most cases one important goal is to reduce inflammation. Sometimes doctors prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs that reduce your immune response.
Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain. Usually the cause is a viral infection, but bacteria can also cause it. It can be mild or severe. Most cases are mild. You may have flu-like symptoms. With a mild case, you may just need rest, plenty of fluids, and a pain reliever.
Severe cases need immediate treatment. Symptoms of severe cases include
- Severe headache
- Sudden fever
In babies, additional symptoms may include constant crying, poor feeding, body stiffness, and bulging in the soft spots of the skull.
Severe cases may require a stay in the hospital. Treatments include oral and intravenous (IV) medicines to reduce inflammation and treat infection. Patients with breathing difficulties may need artificial respiration. Some people may need physical, speech, and occupational therapy once the illness is under control.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke