A brain abscess is usually triggered by a bacterial infection among healthy individuals. If the cause is a fungus, it occurs among those with a weakened immune system. The infection causes the brain to become swollen due to the buildup of pus and dead cells.
It is important to note that a brain abscess develops when viruses, fungi or bacteria reaches the brain via a cut in the head or an infection in a different part in the body. Infections from other parts of the body are responsible for half of cases.
A doctor should be consulted right away if an individual is suspected with a brain abscess. Prompt treatment is vital to prevent any brain damage from the swelling.
Almost anyone can develop a brain abscess, but some groups are at higher risk. Some diseases and conditions that increases the risk include:
- Congenital heart disease
- Compromised or weakened immune system due to HIV or AIDS
- Cancer and other long-standing illnesses
- Major head injuries or skull fractures
- Chronic sinus or middle ear infections
- Using immunosuppressant drugs including those used in chemotherapy
Indications of a brain abscess
The symptoms generally develop in a gradual manner over several weeks but can also occur abruptly. The symptoms to watch out for include:
- Changes in the mental processes such as diminished responsiveness, increased confusion and irritability
- Decreased sensation and speech
- Changes in behavior or personality
- Diminished movement due to loss of muscular function
- Visual changes
- Light sensitivity
- Stiff neck especially if accompanied by fever and chills
A brain abscess is a serious medical condition. Hospitalization might be needed since the pressure from the swelling in the brain can result to lasting brain damage.
In case the abscess is deep within the brain or 2.5 centimeters or less, antibiotics are used. Antibiotics are also used to deal with any underlying infections that might be responsible for the brain abscess. The commonly prescribed are the broad-spectrum antibiotics that can eliminate a variety of bacteria.
Surgery is usually the next step if the brain abscess does not shrink with antibiotics. It might also be the preferred treatment for abscesses bigger than 2.5 centimeters. The surgical removal of an abscess involves opening of the skull and allowing the abscess to drain. The fluid drawn out is analyzed in the laboratory to pinpoint the cause of the infection.