What is Cerebral Edema?

Edema in the brainCerebral edema is a very serious condition with high probabilities of damage in the brain and is also one of the death cause. The biggest problem is that increasing the size of the brain increases the pressure in the skull because of little space. It blocks the correct blood flow and the cerebrospinal fluid, besides altering some functions of the nervous system.

There are several conditions that may be involved with the development of edema in the brain, as it tends to present as a complication, so anyone regardless of age may suffer. However, it is possible to fight against edema in brain and avoid major consequences.Especially if it is detected early.


What Causes To Cerebral Edema?

Different disorders can cause fluid to accumulate in the brain and inflame, some may be more serious than others, but it is important in any case to combat it to avoid fatal consequences. More attention should be paid to any of these frequent causes of cerebral edema, including:

  • Hyponatremia: Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disorder in which the amount of sodium in the blood is below normal, breaking the balance of water and salts between cells and body fluid. As a compensation mechanism, cells absorb large amounts of fluid and this causes them to swell.
  • Stroke: Stroke occurs because of insufficient cerebral blood flow which prevent the proper functioning of the brain. This causes the cells to break and build up liquid. The main cause is hypertension, but there are many factors including the formation of blood clots.
  • Strong Head Injuries: Injury itself can cause inflammation in the brain, but edema is commonly caused by a ruptured blood vessel and result of cerebral hemorrhage, which cells try to regulate by absorbing excess fluid.
  • Infections: The cause can be be a virus, a bacterium, a fungus or a parasite which directly attacks the brain or infection in another area. When the pathogen arrives at this organ, it infects the brain cells, damages them and finally destroys them. This is the reason why the balance of the fluids is broken. In addition, the attack of the immune system favors the inflammation of the brain. Some diseases that can end in cerebral edema are rubella, fulminant hepatitis, toxoplasmosis, meningitis and among others.
  • Brain Tumors: The growth of an abnormal mass in the brain can block the blood and cerebrospinal fluid circulation. This causes to cells to rupture and to increase fluid exchange and accumulation.
  • Hypoxia: This can occur when being above 2000 meters of altitude and especially if the ascent is fast. The lack of oxygen causes the body to compensate for it by dilating the blood vessels in the brain and increasing the flow, but this prolongation causes the process of fluid and salt exchange to increase. The fluids pass to the brain and produces its accumulation.

Main Symptoms of Cerebral Edema

It is important to be able to distinguish the signs of cerebral edema and it is also very important to not to take lightly any discomfort that may occur. The number of symptoms, their intensity and their constancy depend on the cause, the age of the patient, the general state of health and the level of inflammation.

Edema symptoms

Main symptoms of cerebral edema:

  • Constant headaches, very intense or prolonged
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Disorders of vision, often partial loss of sight, double vision or blur
  • Neck Pain
  • Trouble in speaking normally
  • Abnormal breathing is mostly accelerated and there are times of apnea
  • Convulsions
  • Disorders in muscle states which may be stiff or relaxed even if stimulated
  • Especially it presents in the legs, affects walking
  • Alterations in the state of consciousness can be a simple state of confusion, fainting and even falling into a coma, as in some cases more serious
  • Memory problems, there may be difficulty storing or remembering some things

Diagnosis of Edema in Brain

The symptoms of cerebral edema can be confused with other pathologies, but in the presence of any of them it is essential to go immediately with the doctor. The doctor must perform the relevant exams and give a correct diagnosis. In principle, it is necessary to give the medical history to determine when you feel the discomfort and the degree of intensity of the symptoms. Subsequently, the specialist can test the ability of speech and vision, reflexes, muscle movements and memory.

It is also possible that a blood test is required for a better disease outline, but a conclusive diagnosis of cranial edema is obtained by obtaining neuroimaging, the best studies are magnetic resonance imaging which shows more clearly edema and its degree of severity and computed tomography which helps to identify the causes.


How is Cerebral Edema Treated?

It is important to treat edema in the brain as soon as possible to avoid irreparable damage and complications such as intracranial hypertension or a cerebral hernia. To do this, it first seeks to eliminate accumulated fluid, restore proper blood circulation and oxygen level and decrease inflammation. It is also necessary to determine the factor that produced it to follow the appropriate treatment, either pharmacological or surgical, and most of them are intense, prolonged and with constant control.

Cerebral edema

The use of corticosteroids is recommended to decrease the pressure in the skull, but only if the doctor has prescribed it, since it is contraindicated in some cases. While the oxygen supply is usually done through a respirator or following a controlled breathing technique.

On the other hand, it is possible to be considered a surgery in severe cases of cerebral edema, one of them is the ventriculostomy which  objective is to drain the accumulated fluid in the brain through a small cut in one of its ventricles. When intracranial pressure does not decrease and life-threatening, the specialist may suggest a decompressive craniectomy, in which a part of the skull is cut to give space to the inflamed organ and to reduce the pressure; However, it is not a very frequent option as it is a very delicate procedure.

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