A brain abscess is a swelling filled with pus in the brain. It generally forms when fungi or bacteria enters the brain tissue after a severe head injury or infection. It is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment.
What are the indications?
The indications of a brain abscess might develop rapidly or slowly but usually includes the following:
- Headache – this is often severe and positioned in one site of the head and could not be relieved with pain medications
- Issues with the mental state such as irritability or confusion
- Issues with nerve function such as slurred speech, muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
- Fever of 38 degrees C or higher
- Stiff neck
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual changes such as double vision, blurred vision or greying of vision (this is due to the pressure placed by the abscess on the optic nerve)
When to seek medical care
Any indications that might pose as an issue to the brain and nervous system must be treated as a medical emergency such as:
- Muscle weakness or paralysis
- Slurred speech
- Seizures that arise in an individual with no previous history
If any of these are present, call for emergency assistance right away. In case there are symptoms that indicates a progressing infection such as vomiting and fever, a doctor must be consulted right away.
What are the causes?
- Infection in another region of the skull such as sinusitis, ear infection or dental abscess that can directly spread into the brain
- Infection in another part of the body such as pneumonia
- Trauma or injuries such as a severe head injury where the skull is cracked open and allows the entry of fungi or bacteria
In some cases, though, the source of the infection is unknown.
Management of a brain abscess
A brain abscess is considered as a medical emergency. The swelling that occurs due to the abscess can impair the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. There is also a risk for the abscess to rupture.
If not treated, a brain abscess can lead to permanent brain damage and could be deadly. In most cases, an abscess is generally treated with a combination of:
- Medications – antibiotics or antifungals
- Surgery – it involves drainage of pus via a hole in the skull or opening of the skull and removal of the abscess entirely
The treatment involving antibiotics often starts before a diagnosis is confirmed to lower the risk for complications.