Encephalitis - Swelling Of The Brain

It is rare for the brain to swell; however, when this happens it is commonly from an infection in the body, which can be caused by a virus or from bacteria.

The medical term for swelling of the brain is encephalitis. This is a rare complication from minor viruses like chicken pox or serious bacterial infections like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

Since the inflammation can cause brain damage, it is vital to get a diagnosis early so the treatment can begin. The symptoms of encephalitis may be the same as other illness, which can cause a misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Brain Swelling

The symptoms of encephalitis can be more easily diagnosed with a recent history of the patient noting any trauma or recent infections. Since meningitis is a complications of chicken pox, the doctor should be made aware of the infection. The symptoms may include confusion and dysfunctional movement.

When It Progresses

As it progresses it can include the following:

According to the Mayo Clinic (Encephalitis -, it is important to get it diagnosed quickly so treatment can start promptly because there is no way to predict the course of encephalitis. Often the cause of the brain enlarging is infection.

Viral and Bacterial Infections Can Cause the Brain to Swell

Brain edema and encephalitis are words used to describe swelling of the brain. Often it is caused by an infection.

Additional Causes For Encephalitis

According to Live Strong (Causes Brain Swelling -, brain swelling can be caused by parasitic, bacterial, and viral infection in the casing around the brain. The casing is known as meninges.

The most common cause of infection is bacteria. When a child has a severe case of chicken pox, the bacteria can spread to the brain.

Meningitis is when this casing becomes infected. It can be a serious and life threatening condition. It is one of the rare complications of chicken pox.

Complications of Inflammation of the Brain

When a patient has encephalitis from an infection like chicken pox or other types of bacteria or viruses it will need to be treated promptly. When the brain swells it will eventually reach the interior of the scull and cause pressure on the brain.

This pressure can cause brain damage and change the brain?s ability to function. This change in function may be permanent or temporary. Other complications include brain hernia and intracranial pressure. Complications can be reduced with prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Encephalitis

A healthcare professional will diagnose and treat swelling of the brain. If there are symptoms of brain swelling or risk of encephalitis present, tests will be done to diagnose the cause. These are two types of brain swelling:

  1. Vasogenic Edema - caused when the protective layer around the brain is damaged
  2. Cytotoxic Edema - results when the process of fluids moving in and out of the brain is not working properly

The treatment of brain swelling has two parts. One is to relieve the swelling quickly to prevent brain damage. This can be done with medication, surgery, or a combination of both.

The second part is to treat the cause of the swelling. In the case of chicken pox, the viral infection will need to be treated.


Even though encephalitis is a very rare side effect from chicken pox, it is still a possible complication and knowing about it can be the difference between life and death.

Chicken Pox Age Groups

Adults, teens, and babies can get this virus. Learn about the Chicken Pox Age Groups.