Brain Abscess: Symptoms and Treatment

Overview

A brain abscess is a collection of pus enclosed by a well vascularized capsule in the head. When bacteria or fungi enter the brain tissue after an infection or severe injury of the head or elsewhere of the body, a brain abscess is likely to form.

Brain abscesses may result from a variety of infections, among of which heart and lung infections are the most common causes. The incidence of brain abscesses is approximately 8% of intra-cranial masses in developing countries and 1–2% in the western countries.

Causes               

Many factors and conditions can lead to a brain
abscess.

  • An
    infection around the head

Bacteria, fungi, or a parasite can
infect a part of the brain, causing swelling

  • Congenital diseases

Heart disease, meningitis, and some chronic infections developing before or at birth increase the risk in children.

  • Weakened immune system

People with a weakened immune system have a higher chance of developing an abscess.

Symptoms

Non-specific symptoms of a brain abscess include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting

More specific features that should raise the concern
about brain involvement include:

  • Papilledema
  • Confusion and inability to think quickly and solve problems
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Muscle weakness, often one-sided
  • Poor coordination
  • Diminished or abnormal sensations
  • Seizures
  • poor mental focus
  • poor responsiveness
  • speech problems, for example, slurred speech
  • nausea and vomiting
  • a stiff neck, back or shoulders
  • Vision problems such as blurred, double or graying vision

Diagnosis

Diagnosing a brain abscess is a challenging task because many of its early
symptoms are similar to that of other illnesses, but it’s still important to seek
help from a professional physician to get early diagnosis and treatment. The
physician may do the following things:

  • Asking about your medical history and symptoms of brain abscess
  • Doing a neurological exam to check for any increased pressure in the brain due to the swelling
  • Performing advanced imaging tests like CT or an MRI scan to show areas of swelling

Treatment

Treatment for a brain abscess
usually involves a combination of medication and surgery, depending on the size
and number of brain abscesses.

Medication

In
some cases, it may be possible to treat an abscess with medication alone, otherwise,
surgery may be too risky.

Surgery

There are two surgical techniques
for treating a brain abscess:

  • simple aspiration
  • craniotomy (opening the skull)

Keywords: brain abscess.

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