This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Autoimmune encephalitis refers to a group of conditions that occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells, leading to inflammation of the brain. People with autoimmune encephalitis may have various neurologic and/or psychiatric symptoms. Neurologic symptoms may include impaired memory and cognition, abnormal movements, seizures, and/or problems with balance, speech, or vision. Psychiatric symptoms may include psychosis, aggression, inappropriate sexual behaviors, panic attacks, compulsive behaviors, euphoria or fear. Symptoms may fluctuate, but often progress over days to a few weeks. Symptoms can progress to loss of consciousness or even coma.
Autoimmune encephalitis may be associated with antibodies to proteins on the surface of nerve cells, or within nerve cells. Some of these proteins are involved in passing signals between nerve cells. In some cases it occurs in association with cancer (a paraneoplastic syndrome). Research regarding why specific antibodies attack the body’s healthy cells is ongoing. Autoimmune encephalitis generally occurs sporadically, in people with no family history of the condition.
Treatment may involve intravenous immunosuppressive therapy, and tumor removal when necessary. Early treatment decreases the likelihood for long-term complications, speeds recovery, and reduces the risk of recurrence (relapse). If not treated, the condition can lead to progressive neurologic deterioration and loss of life.
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