Autoimmune encephalitis is an autoimmune disease where the brain gets attacked by your own immune system. This disease is thought to be quite rare but doctors and researchers think that there are many undiagnosed cases. There are different types of autoimmune encephalitis but they do have common symptoms. Encephalitis means ‘acute inflammation of the brain‘, which sounds terrifying, and it is. If diagnosed though, encephalitis can be treated, and many people recover. There also exists viral encephalitis, in this case the inflammation can be caused directly by the virus infecting the brain.
Some commonly known types of autoimmune encephalitis:
NMDA receptor antibody encephalitis
NMDAR encephalitis became quite known after a book was published in 2012 by Susannah Cahalan, titled “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness”. The book describes the author’s experience with the disease, misdiagnose, treatment and recovery.
NMDAR encephalitis occurs when the immune system develops antibodies against the NMDA receptors in the brain. These receptors are important for learning and memory, so you don’t want them getting attacked. Symptoms can first start of similar to flu symptoms, with headaches. Later on patients develop neurological symptoms such as seizures, involuntary movements, problems with speech. Patients can also change in personality and behaviour, becoming violent and paranoid. Unfortunately this can lead to a misdiagnosis of a psychiatric illness, such as schizophrenia. If left untreated, the individual may go into a coma.